Fort Mill Times

It’s signed. It’s sealed. And when it’s delivered, the Town of Van Wyck will be born.

Kids enjoy the 15th Annual Celebrate Van Wyck Festival, where the Van Wyck Express is always a big hit.
Kids enjoy the 15th Annual Celebrate Van Wyck Festival, where the Van Wyck Express is always a big hit. Fort Mill Times file photo

It’s official, and it’s on its way.

With Van Wyck voters having decided to form their own town, the last remaining step is receiving a certificate of incorporation from the South Carolina Secretary of State.

“The Secretary of State signed the certificate of incorporation this morning, and we will be sending it to the commissioners so they can schedule an election of municipal officers,” office spokesperson Renee Daggerhart said Wednesday afternoon.

That news sits well with Linda Vaughan, who led a group working toward incorporation since late 2015.

“We’re very happy to know they’re sending it out today,” she said. “We will see who files for office now, and we’ll head forward with our plans.”

Van Wyck voters overwhelmingly supported the creation of a new town on Aug. 15. Of the 75 votes cast, more than 90 percent chose to become a town. All but one voter decided to call it Town of Van Wyck. More than 77 percent opted for a council form of government instead of a mayor-council or council-manager setup.’

Check out a map of the area being incorporated:

Three-quarters of voters picked at-large elections, rather than having wards. Two-year and nonpartisan terms were the choice by 90 percent or more of voters.

After the election, leaders submitted the results to the state office and paid a fee to South Carolina Treasurer’s Office.

“The next steps will be for us to have our own election,” said Rosa Sansbury, one of several residents just outside the new municipal limits lining up for annexation. “We already have some people who would like to serve. We have people eager to participate.”

The new town will cover 285 registered voters. Van Wyck residents pushed to become a municipality in reaction to Indian Land’s incorporation effort, with boundaries that included Van Wyck.

Indian Land’s reasoning -- wanting local control instead of planning, zoning, financial and other decisions made by the larger Lancaster County -- is the same one resonating in Van Wyck. Residents said they wanted to become a town before Indian Land had the chance, so they could control what happens in their community.

“This will allow us to keep Van Wyck as much of the way it is right now,” Vaughan said. “And we just did not want to get swallowed up.”

Just days after the Van Wyck vote, Indian Land incorporation supporters were making their case to state leaders for a vote. Enough signatures were collected for the Indian Land vote, though they came before Van Wyck became its own town. Van Wyck started collecting signatures later but finished earlier than their Indian Land counterparts, in large part, because of the size of the communities.

"We are ahead of them,” Sansbury said. “I think we're safe now. I think we're protected now."

Neighboring properties to the Van Wyck incorporation wouldn’t yet be protected against inclusion in an Indian Land vote. Sansbury and residents like her need Van Wyck to annex her property.

"That is one of the main components of our eagerness to get ourselves up and running," she said.

Vaughan said the idea of incorporating Van Wyck dates back many years, but gained steam recently.

“We talked about this many years ago,” she said. “The interest really was not there.”

Vaughan points to a community meeting where the Indian Land group presented its plan.

“Of course, we were not interested in it,” Vaughan said. “Had we not done this and the Indian Land project moved forward, Van Wyck would have been non-existent.”

Jeff Shacker with the Municipal Association of South Carolina said Van Wyck has plenty of work ahead of it. But having met with residents there, he knows they are up to it.

"The next step for them will be developing a framework to operate the town," Shacker said.

Since 2000, the only communities to incorporate in South Carolina are Jenkinsville in Fairfield County, and James Island near Charleston. Van Wyck joins a “very short list,” Shacker said, though other communities have at least looked into becoming towns or cities. Lake Wylie residents gathered on the issue. Then there is Indian Land, and the somewhat novel legal question of how Van Wyck becoming a town impacts their effort.

Shacker said there are various reasons why communities look into incorporation, and seeing so many so close together isn’t a surprise.

“I do think that there's more discussussion of incorporation in (this) area, and that's a response to the rapid growth that's there,” Shacker said. “It's a direct response to that."

Much of the coming work in Van Wyck will be administrative. The new town will be No. 271 in South Carolina. The more than 400 people within town limits puts it right about where Hickory Grove is. Hickory Grove is the 199th largest municipality in the state.

Van Wyck residents want the new town to maintain what they have. But when the certificate arrives, they’ll be setting a new course, like any other town.

"It's taken us two full years to get this done, but it's been worth it,” Sansbury said. “It's been worth every bit of it."