Indian Land residents question proposed incorporation
A town will be born – or, it'll be business as usual in the panhandle.
It's all up to Indian Land voters, now.
The long-awaited incorporation vote begins with the 7 a.m. opening of almost a dozen polling locations March 27.
Mary Ann Hudson, director of the voter registration and elections office in Lancaster County, has gotten plenty of phone calls in recent months related to the Indian Land vote. Initially there was misinformation on who could and couldn't vote.
"I think that we've kind of cleared up a little bit of the issues that people are having," she said Monday afternoon. "The main thing is for people to get out and vote."
Lancaster County has 35 polling locations. The Indian Land incorporation vote will happen at 11 of them. Polls will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Photo ID is required to vote, which can include a driver's license, passport, federal military ID or voter registration card with photo.
Voters can make selections from all the options on the ballot — questions include what type of government a new town would have — or just on the incorporation question. The ballot will count either way.
The most unusual part of the vote involves Van Wyck. Residents there incorporated ahead of the Indian Land vote largely to avoid being part of it. Yet Van Wyck is inside the part of Lancaster County up for incorporation as Indian Land, and it's growing. Residents outside Van Wyck town limits are asking for and receiving annexation into that new town.
Anyone inside those town limits is unable to vote on Indian Land townhood. Anyone outside Van Wyck but inside the voting area, can.
Voters can check their information and polling places at scvotes.org.
In a community decision that's been at times contentious, both sides believe they have the best interests of Indian Land residents at heart.
Jane Tanner, long-time president of the Indian Land Action Council who stepped down in recent weeks, believes becoming a town is the right move.
"Anything we've ever gotten we've had to fight for," she said.
Tanner said she believes county leaders won't make calls for Indian Land, based on what people in Indian Land want. She points to recreation, zoning and land use decisions she believes hurt the area. She points to a 2015 decision in which residents came out in force, decked out in red shirts, to oppose a zoning change county leaders denied while residents were there but flipped on at the next meeting.
Tanner said she is tired of begging the county for Indian Land support.
"You can go down in red shirts, white shirts," she said. "You could go down there naked and it wouldn't matter."
Beverly Williams, organizer with Citizens Against the Incorporation of Indian Land, said even if becoming a town were at some point the answer, this plan isn't the one. The plan itself is the single issue she hears most people citing when explaining why they'll vote "no."
"This is a very bad plan," she said. "The area is too large. Too much farmland. And those that think incorporation may be somewhere in the future, they will look for a plan that is smaller and more defined."
Williams said her group isn't getting complacent heading into the vote, but they are confident.
"We're feeling really good with the signage we have out in front of homes," she said. "It's all 'vote no.' There are no 'yes' signs in yards."
Even the rare group in Lancaster County that isn't taking a side is, at least, keeping a close eye on the incorporation vote.
"We've been following it really closely from the business perspective," said Dean Faile, president and CEO of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce. "What will this mean for existing businesses and for new businesses looking to relocate in that area?"
The pros and cons, from a business perspective, are hard to estimate given how much sway a new town council would have on fees, business licenses, impact fees or related issues. Or generally whether it would work to attract or deter new business.
"There's too many unknowns to know if it's going to be beneficial or detrimental," Faile said.
Though their opinions on the issue differ, both sides may find the rare point of agreement in just how big the vote in Indian Land is. It will decide taxes, public services, growth patterns and a host of similar issues well into the future.
"It's a big to do around here," Williams said.