Indian Land residents wanting to create their own town are another step closer.
Voters for a Town of Indian Land announced via email release Tuesday morning the group has “more than enough signatures” to bring incorporation to a public vote. The milestone comes after dozens of public meetings and presentations. If signatures from at least 15 percent of the area up for incorporation are deemed valid by election officials, a public referendum will be held.
The incorporation group lists several recent decisions as reason for the “groundswell” of support for incorporation. A 2 percent hospitality tax in Lancaster County now brings the total tax on food and drink in Indian Land to 10 percent, though the money goes to the county. Becoming a town, the group argues, would enable Indian Land to keep half that and other tax revenue local. It would make Indian Land, the fast-growing “panhandle” of northern Lancaster County, “one of the wealthier municipalities in South Carolina overnight.”
Another decision to spur the movement was the county declining to elect an Indian Land representative to a leadership role on the seven-member Lancaster County Council despite a substantial amount of county revenue coming from the area.
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“To most people in Indian Land, these two actions have removed all doubt about how Lancaster County views the panhandle,” the release reads.
“We are a cash cow, plain and simple.”
The group completed a five-year budget analysis with help from the Municipal Association of South Carolina. Taxes for the new town, based on that study, would be less than $60 per year, per $100,000 in property value.
The Indian Land announcement comes as an even smaller part of the panhandle awaits word on its own incorporation. After the Indian Land effort began building steam in 2015, community members in Van Wyck started their own public petition. They didn’t want to be part of an incorporated Indian Land for many of the same reasons organizers behind Indian Land’s petition do not want to rely solely on the county — mainly no local representation and no say on land development issues.
"I think Indian Land probably is making the right decision getting everything together with incorporation,” said Rosa Sansbury, who owns a horse farm just outside the potential Van Wyck municipal limits and is involved with the effort there. “They’re seeing a lot of what we’re seeing. I just don't think they need to come down here and take us."
Because it is much smaller, Van Wyck residents quickly gathered enough signatures for an incorporation vote and submitted paperwork to the state. Residents will take a chartered bus to Columbia for an 8:30 a.m. meeting Thursday with a special called state incorporation committee.
"It's a big deal," Sansbury said. "They'll just be talking about it to see if we are viable, if we need to make any corrections. It just all depends on what the committee decides.”
Sansbury doesn’t know when the final public referendum in Van Wyck would be held. Residents there see annexation as a way to protect themselves from the Indian Land effort, and she is hopeful an incorporated Van Wyck would soon annex her property.
"The entire community is so much behind it,” Sansbury said. “Even people like myself who live just outside it but want to be part of the Van Wyck area."
The Van Wyck group tweaked its application several times since first submitting it, perhaps hinting at the process ahead for Indian Land. Much work remains before the public gets final say on whether to incorporate.
"This is one more step in the process, and this is a big step," Sansbury said of the Van Wyck work. "Everything hinges on Thursday morning."
The state may go decades without a new incorporation, but recent years brought unprecedented interest in the York and Lancaster county areas. Along with Indian Land and Van Wyck, a community group continues to meet in Lake Wylie to explore incorporation there. The same issues are at play, such as local control over land development and keeping tax revenue local. A petition drive hasn’t begun there, but the group has met and worked extensively with the Municipal Association.
“Still up in the air,” said Charles Wood, part of the Lake Wylie group. “Awaiting to see what the volunteer fire department is going to do as well as what we can work out with the new sheriff without incorporating.”
With so many homeowner associations active in Lake Wylie, the process wouldn’t be an easy or quick one there.
“It could be difficult to get the votes necessary to incorporate,” Wood said.
For more on the Indian Land plan, visit townofindianland.org.