Back in the days of video poker, locals nicknamed an area near Carowinds Boulevard "Fort Vegas" for the row of neon-colored poker parlors lining a road into Fort Mill.
Ten years after such games were outlawed, some of the old parlors still stand, part of an unsightly mishmash of buildings, gas stations and warehouses on a heavily traveled interchange off Interstate 77.
Progress on Exit 90 - or the lack of it - has emerged as a key issue in the crowded June 8 Republican primary for District 1, which represents much of northern York County, including Fort Mill and Tega Cay. There is no Democrat in the race.
Councilman Paul Lindemann said he has pushed for new zoning guidelines to establish a more orderly pattern for development and longer-term plans for sidewalks, landscaping and a smoother traffic flow coming off I-77.
The plan sounds good, challengers David Bowman and Tom Audette say, but it also sounded good when York County started talking about it in the early 2000s.
"I wish we were further along," said Bowman. "This has been a topic of discussion for at least the last eight years. Paul is trying to latch onto it as a campaign theme because he gets to show up and lead those meetings."
Lindemann said he has worked to bring about action. County officials are drawing up a big-picture concept for sidewalks and signage to brand the area, which runs past the Regent Park community.
On Friday, a Rock Hill-Fort Mill transit committee called RFATS approved $945,000 in federal money to improve traffic flow at the interchange.
"Right after the fall of the poker folks, there was no real initiative to clean up the area," Lindemann said. "I said when I first got elected, Regent Park had been sort of the red-headed stepchild of the county. I made it a priority to clean that area up."
But progress hasn't come quickly enough, Audette argues. Three years ago, York County could have taken advantage of state money to help pay for improvements, Audette said. Now, the state is facing its own financial problems.
"The decision would have been better made three years ago," Audette said. "It should've been addressed back then, as opposed to now. Moving forward, things are only going to get more expensive."
Challenger Kyle Boyd said he travels a stretch of Carowinds Boulevard coming home from work every day. He said the priority should be to create a smoother traffic flow.
"It's kind of quirky to say the least," Boyd said of the interchange. "A lot of it is dilapidated. The whole project has a lot to do with not just the appearance, but the road being more accessible."
Incumbent known for run-ins
Lindemann has been dogged by personal and business troubles, including a DUI arrest, lawsuits alleging missed payments and, most recently, trips to Miami Beach and Atlantic City with a financial company accused of misusing escrow money. Lindemann said he did nothing wrong by taking the trips.
The DUI charge was resolved when Lindemann pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
"We can sit here and talk about all the dirty laundry I've got, or I'm accused of," said Lindemann. "I don't put the blame on anybody else. What I talk about is real issues and real things we've accomplished...Ultimately, my voting record speaks for itself."
Bowman said residents in District 1 deserve better.
"Sometimes you have to remove an issue or a problem before it blows up in your face," said Bowman. "That's why he has three challengers this time. People know there is a ticking time bomb on the County Council, and it is our incumbent."
Boyd said District 1 needs a person of character and integrity.
"I just say that I'm tired of seeing him in the newspaper for things that are negative," Boyd said. "It brings a negative light to the County Council and to York County."
Audette said voters will have to decide for themselves about Lindemann's conduct.
"Paul's issues have been all over the papers," Audette said. "People are going to make a judgment on that without me putting my input into it."
Meet the candidates
Four men are running in the Republican primary for the District 1 seat on the York County Council:
Address: 1312 Hensley Road, Fort Mill
Occupation: Economic development consultant and auto broker
Education: Bachelor's degree in public relations, University of South Carolina, 2003
Political experience: York County Council, 2006-present
Family: Wife, Jennifer; son, Ethan
Community: Tega Cay Lions Club, Fort Mill Rotary, Fort Mill Jaycees, member of The Crossing church
Address: 3474 Blue Jay Pass, Fort Mill
Occupation: Manages large business accounts for AT&T
Education: Master's degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing, Columbia Southern University, an online-only university in Orange Beach, Ala.
Political experience: None
Family: Wife, Dianne; five children, Caroline, Olivia, Abigail, Shelly, Meghan
Community: Member of Men of Acts Christian outreach group; SC-5 Patriots, a branch of the S.C. Tea Party Patriots; attends Central Church of God
Address: 572 Sweet Peach Lane, Fort Mill
Occupation: Self-employed financial adviser
Education: Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, Clemson University, 1988
Political experience: None
Family: Wife, Jennifer; two children, Matthew and Catherine
Community: Eagle Scout; Fort Mill Rotary; York County Regional Chamber of Commerce; Leadership York County; Fort Mill Zoning Board of Appeals; advisory board chairman, Fort Mill and Gold Hill YMCA branches; elder, Unity Presbyterian Church
Address: 3240 Bannock Drive, Fort Mill
Occupation: Principal, Walnut Grove Christian School, Charlotte
Education: Bachelor's degree in elementary education, College of Charleston, 1998
Political experience: None
Family: Wife, Shannon; three girls, Draye, Charlie, Autumn Skye
Community: Volunteer basketball coach, Victory Sports Outreach; member, First Baptist Church in Fort Mill