The Town of Fort Mill recently met with an Indian Land resident leading the charge to incorporate the community to discuss the possibility of annexing the Panhandle into town limits.
The discussion with Melvin Threatt, president of Indian Land Voice, was “short and hypothetical,” according to a statement from Kimberly Starnes, event and media coordinator for the town.
Threatt said he met with Fort Mill Mayor Danny Funderburk and Town Manager Dennis Pieper.
Both Starnes and Threatt said the town initiated the meeting.
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“The Town of Fort Mill reached out to Mr. Threatt as part of the town’s commitment to the strategic planning process. We consider conversations like this a necessary part of the diligence required in effective long range planning,” Starnes said in an email to the Fort Mill Times.
Town Councilman Ronnie Helms said he wasn’t at the meeting, but that he’s aware it had taken place. He said the idea of approaching Threatt was initially discussed “at one of our planning sessions.” Asked when that meeting was held and if it was at Town Hall or one of the council's quarterly meetings held outside Fort Mill, Helms said, “I don't recall."
“We discussed it at one of our planning sessions as far as future growth,” he said. “We're just trying to map out the future.”
Any move to incorporate Indian Land would be “quite a few years away,” Helms said, though he declined to estimate a time frame.
When asked why annexing Indian Land into town limits would be beneficial to town residents, Helms said, “I’m not prepared to answer that at this time.”
Incorporation has been a discussion among Indian Land residents for nearly a decade. Indian Land Voice renewed the conversation earlier this year, saying that Lancaster County wasn’t addressing residents’ concerns regarding zoning issues and rapid growth in the Panhandle.
Members of Indian Land Voice have recently been gathering voters’ signatures on an incorporation petition. If it can gather enough signatures, a referendum would be held to determine if the community favors incorporation and what form of government voters prefer. Voters would get to choose the terms of mayor and council members and whether they hold partisan or non-partisan elections.
“They just said, you know, they wanted to know how things are going with us getting funding for our signature drive for our petition to incorporate Indian Land as a city,” Threatt said.
Threatt said he doesn’t know what the town’s plans are, nor did he remember specifically what questions were asked, he said.
“I don’t recall,” he said.
Jane Tanner, a member of Indian Land Voice and former board member for the organization, said she is disappointed with the way the Town of Fort Mill approached the conversation with Indian Land leaders.
“If they had an interest in this, maybe they should have met with council members or the Indian Land Voice board. They should have more than one person know about it,” Tanner said.
According to the Municipal Association of South Carolina, annexation of property can occur by either approval of all property owners, approval of 75 percent of property owners that own 75 percent of assessed value in the area to be annexed, or by 25 percent of registered voters in the area signing a petition requesting a referendum. The referendum would allow voters the opportunity to vote for or against annexation.
In order to annex a community, the town must have contiguous property. According to the York County map, Fort Mill’s town limits met Lancaster County in two places – along Hwy. 160 East behind Avery Plaza and in the Springfield area. In both instances, the counties are separated by a creek.