Primary season will be more than just picking presidential candidates. In Indian Land, it will be about picking up signatures.
A group called Voters for a Town of Indian Land continues its push to incorporate the panhandle of northern Lancaster County. Part of that push is collecting petition signatures from registered voters. And the biggest gathering of registered voters comes with Republican and Democratic primaries.
“We intend to have people at the polls,” said Jerry Holt, group member and county planning commissioner. “There we know we have registered voters.”
So far, about 1,000 signatures have been collected. The group needs about 3,000 but will shoot for 5,000 to avoid repeats, nonregistered voters or any other names that may be discounted. There have been at least a half-dozen sizable public meetings, including with the Indian Land Action Council and in both Sun City Carolina Lakes and the Van Wyck community.
“Responses have been a little bit mixed,” Holt said.
Many have been interested in finding out facts on incorporation. The group is “on a track that we anticipated,” Holt said. Van Wyck residents “seemed to have the strongest opinion,” he said.
“They, in general, are not in favor of being included in our proposal,” Holt said.
There are no plans to amend the effort to exclude Van Wyck, where residents aren’t seeing the kind of development pressure found in the northern reaches of Indian Land. Amending plans would change the data used to make a case for incorporation, from demographics to public service costs. The larger reason for keeping Van Wyck, Holt said, is continuity.
“We acknowledge the fact that they feel the way they do,” he said. “When it comes right down to it the reason we included them in the first place is we wanted further protection for Indian Land or the panhandle area as a whole.”
With saturation on the northern end, he anticipates Van Wyck, where an 800-home subdivision is being built on land that used to be a summer camp, may soon see why the effort began in the first place. Growth will have nowhere to go but south.
“The southern part of this area is going to look just like the northern part,” without incorporation, Holt predicts.
“The mistakes have already been made up here. We want to prevent those same mistakes being made there,” he said.
Incorporation group member John Delfausse said response so far has been “some expected, some maybe unexpected.” His sense is there aren’t too many undecided people signing the petition just to get more information before a final vote.
“From my take, folks are either for it and they’re signing the petition, or they’re against it and they’re not signing it,” he said.
The incorporation group isn’t trying to push forward despite the Van Wyck community, he said.
“We’re trying to help them see that it’s good for them,” Delfausse said. “It’s going to be coming sooner or later.”
The area that would be incorporated sits north of S.C. 5. The proposal includes a town council, town manager format with five nonpartisan seats. One council member would be elected from each of five districts.
A new municipality must offer at least three public services, which can vary in costs widely. Fire and police service can make up half the cost of a full-service town, for instance, where an option like street lighting would be much less expensive. The Indian Land proposal includes law enforcement and fire protection, both contracted with Lancaster County. Planning and zoning, building code enforcement and parks and recreation would be added, too.
The incorporation group estimates the town will bring in $7.9 million per year, compared to $7.7 million in costs. Property tax revenue would account for $2.1 million, building and permit fees $2.2 million and local option sales tax another $1.8 million. Personal property tax, business licenses, franchise fees, local government fund and hospitality tax would bring in the rest.
The biggest costs would be $2.1 million for contingency or facilities, $1.5 million for fire service and $1.2 million each for law enforcement and planning. The parks and recreation estimate is $300,000. Other costs include administration, finance, legal and council contract spending.
Based on the group’s estimates, a $250,000 home would pay $146 per year in local taxes.
The Indian Land decision could have an impact beyond just the panhandle. South Carolina has had only two such incorporations in the past 30 years. James Island has more than 11,000 residents now. Jenkinsville has fewer than 50. In York County, leaders in the Lake Wylie community gathered last week to discuss a possible incorporation there.
Jeff Shacker, field services manager with the Municipal Association of South Carolina, said his group doesn’t have an opinion on whether communities should incorporate.
“That’s a local decision,” he told the Lake Wylie group. “That’s for you to make.”
The Municipal Association will assist communities as they work through the legal process.
As for neighborhoods or pockets within proposed municipal boundaries that are against the plan – Van Wyck, in the panhandle case – it’s all or nothing. They couldn’t be excluded from the new town if voters as a whole choose to incorporate.
“They would refuse to sign the petition and vote against it,” Shacker said.
Shacker also said there are funding sources outside the property tax rate to consider. The state provides close to $20 per person, and there are franchise fees, planning and development fees, business license fees that in high-growth areas often impact builders and contractors from outside the area.
“You would hit that low-hanging fruit first,” Shacker said.
While not endorsing incorporation directly, Shacker said planning and development are areas incorporation can impact. Both Indian Land and Lake Wylie residents want tighter development standards and less density for residential construction. Something like a building overlay is “more typical of a municipality than a county,” Shacker said.
“I think it would be less challenging,” he said of development standards and growth management. “It would be a little easier to participate in the process, too.”