After Indian Land’s overwhelming vote against incorporation on March 27, Van Wyck residents can breathe a little easier.
“It certainly takes a lot of the urgency out of what we were doing prior to their failed referendum election,” Van Wyck Mayor Sean Corcoran said.
Since incorporating in August, 2017, the brand new town of Van Wyck has grown by leaps and bounds. Through annexation, it has added nearly 5,000 acres to the original blueprint of the town – increasing the incorporated area from 1.4 square miles to approximately nine square miles and stretching from the Catawba River to the North Carolina border.
“Now that we don’t have the urgency of the Indian Land issue hanging over our heads, we’re able to move forward with getting the town set up,” Corcoran said, “foundational concerns such as working a budget, planning and zoning, things of that nature.”
Other than having a municipal clerk, Van Wyck is still in its infancy. And with no current revenue, the town’s not fielding any staff positions. Corcoran said he and other council members share the responsibilities of running the town and hope to soon gain the help of the county.
“As we begin to build the foundational ordinances of the town – a building code, zoning and issues like those – our plan is to retain Lancaster County to provide those services on the town’s behalf, at least initially,” he said. “As the town grows and becomes more mature, we’ll look to handle those responsibilities on our own – years in the future.”
Town status notwithstanding, Van Wyck is a very rural part of Lancaster County and most of its annexation covers farmland and timberland. To convince those property owners to incorporate, the town passed an ordinance designed to protect local farmers from nuisance lawsuits.
Corcoran said state law provides some lawsuit protection for agricultural landowners, but there’s an exemption for municipalities.
“Municipalities don’t have to have their own law in that regard,” he said. “But we passed our version of that law for landowners zoned agricultural to provide the same level of protection for our farming property owners.”
Spraying fertilizers and pesticides or stirring up clouds of dust from tilling fields could be considered a nuisance to a high-density development next door. But Van Wyck doesn’t have any higher density neighborhoods; It has a lot of farms.
The town’s limits end about two miles south of the closest dense neighborhood – Tree Tops subdivision on Van Wyck Road. Corcoran said Van Wyck didn’t receive any interest from the Tree Tops community to become part of the nascent town and if it had, then he and the council members would have to “think long and hard” about whether or not to annex the subdivision.
“Our farming landowners want to be a part of Van Wyck, but they don’t want to run the risk of, as development comes our way, suddenly being saddled with nuisance lawsuits for activities that they’ve been involved with for dozens of years,” Corcoran said.
That was the selling point for Van Wyck resident Bob Yoder. His family owns hundreds of acres of farmland and timberland, and initially he didn’t want to incorporate – he wanted to stay in the county.
“But once we got the ordinances passed that we could continue to farm and hunt and do everything like we did while we were living in the county, we were fine with coming in,” he said.
Yoder used to own a store in Van Wyck, it sold products such as groceries, gas and hardware, but closed its doors years ago. Although he doesn’t want the town to grow much larger than it’s become, he would like to see a few businesses open.
“We probably need another little small store here,” Yoder said. “General merchandise, where you can pick it up anything you need in a community like we used to.”
Stephanie Jadrnicek: firstname.lastname@example.org