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New year, same goal. Fort Mill has a plan to address growth. Here’s what it’ll take

It’s a new year but with a familiar challenge in Fort Mill: How to get ready for all the new people and businesses coming.

“Growth has many forms, benefits and challenges,” said Mayor Guynn Savage. “Our goals to address growth are ongoing.”

One clear picture of how much work is needed comes from the capital improvement plan started when the town began collecting impact fees in 2015. The improvement plan is required to collect impact fees, and fees can only pay for items on the plan .

“The plan is designed as a list of those projects that are being considered in the future that are outside of the general day-to-day operational needs of the town,” Savage said. “It is a list that can, and should, be updated and changed as requirements and plans evolve.”

In December, the town planning commission reviewed potential changes to the plan. Fort Mill Town Council could decide on the updates this month. Possibilities include adding an outdoor amphitheater at Elisha Park, updating a fire station and more about the coming park at Waterside, now called Banks Athletic Park.

The plan includes estimated time lines and costs, such as cost estimates from 2015 when the town wrote the plan and the year the town actually expects to spend or need it.

The plan can be tricky, with some listed items completed or partially done while others are in the future with undetermined funding. Putting an item on the needs list doesn’t lock the town into making it happen. The plan also lists projects that exceed impact fees that will be collected.

“While the plan is required for the allocation of money collected through impact fees, the projects included in the plan can be supplemented with funding from other sources of revenue,” Savage said. “For most of the projects on the plan, this will be necessary.”

Still, the plan shows what the kind of challenges that await and why.

Parks and Rec

Charged solely in residential construction, the parks and recreation impact fee generates more money annually than fees from fire, municipal or transportation. The town has plenty of potential uses.

“We are in the design phases of a new amphitheater and restrooms to be added the popular Walter Y. Elisha Park and a new park off of Banks Road that will provide new ballfields, playgrounds and walking trails,” Savage said. “This park will be needed to replace the ballfields at the recreation complex that will no longer be available for the town’s use in the next several years.”

The improvement plan allows for expansion at the recreation complex and improvements at the Banks Street Gym.

The listed parks and recreation items on the improvement list include:

Banks Athletic Park

2015 Cost Estimate: $4.33 million

Current Cost Estimate: $6.46 million

Timeline: 2016-2020

Why it’s needed: The town will lose the use of leased ballfields beside the recreation complex on Tom Hall Street in 2020, likely to future redevelopment. A 25-acre piece of land donated as part of Waterside at the Catawba will add baseball/softball fields, a picnic pavilion, restrooms and walking trails. The plan also mentions tennis courts and a playground area.

Gymnasium

2015 Cost Estimate: $4.23 million

Current Cost Estimate: $5.8 million

Timeline: 2016-19

Why it’s needed: The capital improvement plan describes an up to 40,000-square-foot gym in the Tom Hall Street corridor. Of note, the town reached an agreement with Leroy Springs & Co., the Fort Mill School District and Upper Palmetto YMCA in the fall of 2017 — two years after the plan was written — allowing the town to take ownership of the recreation complex on Tom Hall.

That property was given to the town, while Leroy Springs kept the ballfield space for possible redevelopment. The YMCA runs programs at the complex, and the school district came aboard to put money toward an expanded pool area for its aquatic center.

The improvement plan does list the main purpose of a new gym as replacement of the Banks Street Gym, also leased to the town from Leroy Springs through spring 2020. The plan mentions a gym with basketball/volleyball courts, meeting facilities and classroom and office space.

Future Park

2015 Cost Estimate: $2 million

Current Cost Estimate: $2.55 million

Timeline: 2019-2020

Why it’s needed: Buying another 20 acres of land somewhere — the plan doesn’t list a site — would allow for future parks and rec facilities. A new 12,703 residents expected between 2015 and 2025 would be an 82 percent bump for the town.

Amphitheater

2015 Cost Estimate: $1.5 million

Current Cost Estimate: $2.2 million

Timeline: 2018-2019

Why it’s needed: A new covered amphitheather with indoor storage, electrical room and changing facilities would be constructed at Elisha Park. The site already has some concert usage, most notably each May during the South Carolina Strawberry Festival.

Fire

Fire items listed on the improvement plan include ongoing work toward a new fire station, and another one after it.

“This new station will serve all residents and will keep the response time and insurance rates in alignment with the good service we have come to expect,” Savage said. “Additional funds will be required to complete the station and the town has worked with a financial planning consultant to organize our efforts on this item.”

Fire Station No. 2

2015 Cost Estimate: $2.68 million

Current Cost Estimate: $3.8 million

Timeline: 2017-2019

Why it’s needed: A new fire station would serve the southern part of town, including the Dobys Bridge Road corridor, Fort Mill Parkway, Banks, Holbrook and Whites roads. The plan envisions a 10,000-square-foot site on land donated as part of Nims Village. It could have a police substation.

The fire department responded to 211 calls from the area in 2014, the last year before the improvement plan. From 2015 to 2025, it estimated 2,733 more homes, 118 townhomes and 608 apartments to come there along with 350,000 square feet of industrial development and Catawba Ridge High School.

Fire Station No. 3

2015 Cost Estimate: $2.2 million

Current Cost Estimate: $2.69 million

Timeline: 2015-2018

Why it’s needed: An 8,000-square-foot fire station on three acres of land would serve the northern portion of town including Springfield Parkway, U.S. 21 Bypass and Pleasant Road. It could have a police substation.

The fire department responded to 94 calls from that area in 2014. From 2015 to 2025, the plan projects another 797 homes, 235 townhomes and up to 375,000 square feet of commercial development in the area. The plan notes a future middle school, now Pleasant Knoll Middle, and 700 apartments planned just for Pleasant Road.

Fire Engine

2015 Cost Estimate: $675,000

Current Cost Estimate: $716,108

Timeline: 2016-2018

Why it’s needed: The new Class 1 vehicle is needed to equip Station No. 3, serving the Springfield Parkway, U.S. 21 Bypass and Pleasant Road areas.

Heavy Rescue Apparatus

2015 Cost Estimate: $800,000

Current Cost Estimate: $874,182

Timeline: 2017-2019

Why it’s needed: The specialty vehicle would serve the entire town. It could be used for auto wrecks, building collapses, confined space rescue and other emergencies. It also could serve as a mobile command unit, support HazMat incidents, provide air support and aid urban search and water rescues.

Municipal

Town Hall

2015 Cost Estimate: $2.35 million

Current Cost Estimate: $2.58 million

Timeline: 2016-2018

Why it’s needed: The town acquired the former Comporium office at 200 Tom Hall St. in 2016. Town services moved there, clearing space in the former town hall for expansion of the police department, which shared the former town hall building prior. The improvement plan mentions possible expansion of the former Comporium space by up to 6,000 feet.

The town had some of the property donated, dropping the overall cost. The town is reimbursing itself for costs associated with the move from its municipal impact fee. The improvement plan projects as population increases by 82 percent from 2015 to 2025, the number of workers will increase 184 percent, or 6,583 workers. Those increases will double the need for town services.

Police Conversion

2015 Cost Estimate: $275,000

Current Cost Estimate: $301,250

Timeline: 2016-2017

Why it’s needed: Moving Town Hall freed up 11,000 square feet of space at 112 Confederate St. for the police department, which was operating just on the lower level there. The police department, at capacity when the improvement plan was written, roughly doubled its space. The plan also mentions converting council chambers, still used in that role, to a full-time municipal courtroom.

Southern Police Substation

2015 Cost Estimate: $235,071 for new construction; $74,545 for shared site

Current Cost Estimate: $264,150 for new construction; $81,728 for shared site

Timeline: 2015-2017

Why it’s needed: A new substation would serve the Banks, Dobys Bridge, Sutton and White roads corridor along with Fort Mill Parkway and Spratt Street. That area, from 2015 to 2025, is projected to have 2,733 more homes, 118 townhomes, 356 apartments and 350,000 square feet of industrial space, along with the new Catawba Ridge High School and increased traffic volume.

The more expensive option involves buying three acres next to Fire Station No. 2 on North Dobys Bridge Road and building a 1,000-square-foot substation. The less expensive involves a 250-square-foot substation within the new fire station.

Northern Police Substation

2015 Cost Estimate: $288,750

Current Cost Estimate: $378,328

Timeline: 2016-2018

Why it’s needed: A new substation at 1,000-1,500 square feet would serve the northern part of town, including Springfield Parkway, U.S. 21 Bypass and Pleasant Road. The substation would be located alongside Fire Station No. 3. The plan estimates 797 new homes and 235 townhomes on the Springfield Parkway corridor from 2015 to 2025, an increase of 131 percent. It also predicts up to 375,000 square feet of new commercial development at Springfield and U.S. 21 Bypass, Pleasant Knoll Middle School and 700 new apartments on Pleasant and more traffic on roads, meaning more service calls.

Downtown Parking

2015 Cost Estimate: $627,200

Current Cost Estimate: $748,160

Timeline: 2015-2017

Why it’s needed: A 70,000-square-foot parking lot on more than two acres at North White and Main streets adds to the 80 spaces and 50 leased spaces there when the plan was written. New business and residents downtown put parking at a premium.

Public Works

2015 Cost Estimate: $600,000

Current Cost Estimate: $765,769

Timeline: 2019-2020

Why it’s needed: A public works operations center on 10 acres would help with the population and employee base doubling from 2015 to 2025, along with town-maintained roads increasing. The public works siteon East Hill Street sits on four acres and includes a maintenance shop, shelter, trailer and storage for dirt, gravel, debris and other materials. A host of town vehicles use the site.

Asphalt Paving Equipment

2015 Cost Estimate: $250,000

Current Cost Estimate: $273,182

Timeline: 2017-2018

Why it’s needed: The 36 miles and 120 public streets in Fort Mill could grow by more than 50 percent through 2025. Active and approved subdivisions through 2015 alone, many of which will be done in that span, projected 168 more roads at 45 miles.

Garbage Trucks

2015 Cost Estimate: $300,000 per truck

Current Cost Estimate: $309,000 and $337,653

Timeline: 2015-2019

Why it’s needed: Two new garbage trucks will serve a growing number of residents. Two town trucks serve more than 4,000 residential and small business customers.

Knuckle Boom Trucks

2015 Cost Estimate: $150,000

Current Cost Estimate: $154,500

Timeline: 2015-2016

Why it’s needed: A knuckle boom truck collects bulk items and yard debris from homes, serving about 4,000 customers.

Tandem Dump Truck

2015 Cost Estimate: $125,000

Current Cost Estimate: $136,591

Timeline: 2019-2020

Why it’s needed: A tandem dump truck is needed to haul asphalt, soil, debris and other materials for maintenance and street resurfacing.

Track Hoe

2015 Cost Estimate: $500,000

Current Cost Estimate: $579,637

Timeline: 2019-2020

Why it’s needed: A track hoe is needed to dig, excavate and load asphalt, soil and other materials related to street resurfacing.

Transportation

Road improvements aren’t like the rest on the improvement plan. The town technically has a transportation impact fee on the books, but doesn’t charge anything for it. Town leaders decided against charging for transportation due to concerns over attracting business, with the road fees charging far more on commercial than residential growth.

Because the fee is in place there are road improvements listed, but no impact fees are being collected to address them. The roads listed include widenings of North Dobys Bridge Road from Tom Hall to Fort Mill Parkway, South Dobys Bridge from Fort Mill Parkway to Crofton Drive, Springfield Parkway from U.S. 21 Bypass to Steele Street, S.C. 160 from North Dobys to Springfield Parkway, North White from U.S. 21 Bypass to Clebourne Street, Whites Road from Fort Mill Parkway to J.W. Wilson Road, the Springfield Parkway railroad overpass and North White from Bass Street to Old Nation Road.

An intersection improvement at Whites and Fort Mill Parkway with partial widening and a roundabout is included, as is an intersection improvement at North Dobys and Fairway Drive.

None of the road projects are listed for funding before 2020. They combine for an estimated $95.77 million.

Facing the challenge

Other town efforts include adding planning and administrative staff, strategic planning, a new financial management system and tweaks to zoning rules, including taking out a zoning used for higher density residential building and upping requirements for traffic impact studies.

“We all are enjoying one benefit of growth with the new vibrancy of our downtown and another with excellent employment opportunities available to our residents,” Savage said. “We remain dedicated to finding new and effective ways to help address the challenges that come with that growth and are excited to start a new year.”

Townwide, the 2015 improvement plan projects 5,383 new homes, townhomes and apartments within 10 years. It also projects almost 1.5 million square feet of commercial office space, 350,000 square feet of industrial and 460,000 square feet of school space.

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John Marks covers community growth, municipalities and general news mainly in the Fort Mill and York County areas. He began writing for the Herald and sister papers in 2005 and won dozens of South Carolina Press Association and other awards since.
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