Fort Mill Times

County, local officials discuss Fort Mill/Tega Cay growth issues

FORT MILL Representatives from the York County, Tega Cay and Fort Mill councils held an informal joint forum recently to discuss how to control growth.

The officials met for nearly three hours April 28 at Nation Ford High School.

Fort Mill town Councilman Tom Adams said a solution for containing growth is to place a moratorium on new multi-family housing, such as apartments and townhomes, something Rock Hill already enacted. Multi-family units bring in more students and puts more cars on the roads than single family homes, Adams said.

However, those units also provide a commercial tax base for the area, York County Councilman Chad Williams said.

Fort Mill Mayor Danny Funderburk said he doesn’t favor the idea of a moratorium.

“Historically, moratoriums don't work and they, actually, put you in a position to experience long-term negative repercussions,” he said.

York County Councilman Michael Johnson said the councils need to work together – especially in land planning. Johnson said a joint planning commission should be formed to create a vision for the county as a whole, with input from both Fort Mill and Tega Cay. He said the county leaders would be tasked with listening to what that commission decided was best.

“I want to cede some of my power to a greater good,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the county also has a part in the blame for uncontrolled growth as thousands new homes have been built.

“We have failed to do our job over the past 25 years,” he said.

Williams agreed that it is time to take action.

“Whether the growth started in the county or the municipalities, it’s here and we need to do something about it,” he said.

The county is midway into updating its 10-year comprehensive plan. So far, an advisory committee has met with stakeholders, held four public meetings and collected data for the plan. Public comments included concerns on growth, schools and more green space and recreation options.

Tega Cay Mayor George Sheppard said he worries that because the county council members have two-year terms, they may all be replaced before the comprehensive plan is complete, bringing in a new set of leaders with their own ideas for growth.

Williams said the last three times the council has tried to get longer, or staggered, terms, it has failed when the decision was put before voters.

“It needs to come from somebody else,” he said.

Funderburk said the county needs use the comprehensive plan the same way his town council does.

“We refer to our land use plan for every single decision,” he said.

Transportation

Under the C-fund program, money from a 2.66-cent statewide gasoline tax is distributed monthly to counties, with 25 percent going to state-maintained roads or projects, said Ryan Blancke, transportation manager for York County. Annually, York County gets an average of $4 million in C-funds, 15 percent of which is set aside for economic development, an average of $600,000, Blancke said. The remainder is divided evenly among the seven county council districts, an average of $485,000 per district.

Sheppard said he wondered why 15 percent is set aside for economic needs versus all the funds going toward roads.

The trade-off presented by using the C-funds for economic growth outweighs the minimal impact that money would have to solve the problem of congested, often crumbling roads, York County Council Chairman Britt Blackwell said.

“($100,000) barely touches a pot hole,” he said. “We’re as frustrated as everybody else.”

This year, $40 million in C-fund projects were requested, Blancke said. The projects span 121 miles, with an average cost of $325,000 per mile. With the funding that is available, just 10 percent of those can be addressed. The projects are prioritized based on the level of need, project location and cost estimate.

Johnson said because the C-funds for economic development are matched locally, the money has a greater impact when put toward that use. However, Johnson said he knows the roads also need work and suggested they come up with a long-term plan.

“We need to address what needs to be done,” he said.

York County Councilwoman Christi Cox agreed that the leaders need to come together to fix the roads, and that C-funds are not the answer.

“That is not going to solve this issue at all,” she said.

Cox, Williams and Johnson all represent parts of Fort Mill or Tega Cay on the county council.

There are $2 million in upcoming C-fund projects, which include 5 miles of road resurfacing and safety improvements, Blancke said.

Under the Pennies for Progress program, the first phase of the Fort Mill Southern Bypass opened last summer and the second phase is under construction. The entire project was budgeted at $48 million.

The Hubert Graham Way Connector for S.C. 160 to Gold Hill Road, budgeted at $7.4 million, is set to open in 2017. The $12.4 million Gold Hill/I-77 Interchange improvements are in the design phase. The widening of 160 West from Zoar Road to the N.C. state line, $8.8 million, is also in design.

The widening of U.S. 21 and S.C. 5 from Springfield Parkway to the state line, a $22.4 million project, is scheduled to open in 2019.

Funderburk, who serves on a regional transportation committee, said he commends the county for the successful completion of so many road projects.

The cooperation has “been tremendous,” he said.

Funderburk also attributed the projects to the Pennies for Progress program.

“Without it, we would be in big trouble,” he said.

York County Manager Bill Shanahan said the goal is to find win/win situations to move the entire county forward.

“All of us together can make it better than by ourselves,” he said.

Want to go?

Shaping the Future Workshop will be held June 11. Putting the Plan into Action will be held Aug. 13. The locations of both meetings will be determined later. For information, go to yorkforward.com.

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