Fort Mill building inspector Marty Taylor calls himself the “common man” candidate for York County Council District 5 residents and pledges to inject “humility” into a council known for disagreement and heated debate.
Taylor, a Fort Mill native, is running on a campaign targeted at increasing political participation in the district – including local district forums, increased transparency of council voting records, and an online polling system to survey residents of proposed council action items.
Like his opponent Christi Cox – a Rock Hill lawyer he faces in Tuesday’s GOP primary – Taylor supports additional funding for road maintenance as the number one priority for the district.
Taylor and Cox face no incumbent or Democratic opponents – meaning the successor to outgoing councilman Curwood Chappell’s seat will be determined next week.
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“I am in general a no-tax or low-tax kind of candidate,” said Taylor. But, he said, he does favor an additional sales tax for road maintenance. Poor road conditions and decaying infrastructure was the top issue raised by residents throughout the district, Taylor said.
The county’s “Pennies for Progress” road-improvement program uses a 1-cent added sales tax for new road construction, but additional state legislation is needed for maintenance to be legally funded.
The former businessman said he is focused on ramping up the total amount of industrial space allotted for commercial venues as his top countywide priority.
Taylor noted the growing scarcity of suitable space with less than 1,500 acres remaining for commercial development.
“To me that’s scary, that should be our number one priority,” said Taylor. “We need to get focused on managing growth.”
In recent rezonings, the council has faced several contentious requests, including the approval of a conditional zoning tool as a way to balance existing residential neighborhoods with increased development.
“I’m not a fan of slowing growth, I am a fan of smart growth including more commercial,” said Taylor, explaining that commercial development contributes to the county tax base, reducing the need for tax increases.
“I am the taxpayer that feels the pain of those taxes regularly,” he said.
While Taylor isn’t against raising property taxes, he wants increases to be done “in a sensible fashion” that gives taxpayers time to adjust. Taylor said he’d prefer to reduce costs rather than raise taxes.
Taylor said he supports a more equitable distribution of hospitality tax dollars – a topic of debate among council members.
“If I were to have my choice, it would have never been created,” Taylor said of the hospitality tax, which levies tax dollars from businesses in the county’s unincorporated areas to fund tourism-related events and operations.
He called the tax a perfect example of lack of foresight by previous council members who didn’t specify how the funds should be spent, leading to “negative discussion.”
Taylor reserved his take on the county’s decreased ability to fund capital improvements, citing a belief that council members should be fully aware of all items before voting on them and not simply rely on staff recommendations to set the course.
“I vow to be fully researched on every topic,” he said. “As much as I respect (county) staff, I think council’s obligation is to go a step further.”
Outgoing councilman Chappell, who has held the seat for 22 years and passed up an opportunity at a re-election bid to endorse Cox in his place, had previously said during a council meeting that he did not read agenda packets prepared for him by staff. Chappell noted he relies instead on hearing directly from district residents on how he should vote.
“I bring the fact that I’m not too proud to do anything to better the community,” said Taylor, who said that overall low political participation in the district often means a few active residents will contact council members or attend public hearings. “The decisions York County Council make affect all of us.”