Sudler column: After much study, we’ll vote yes on town of Indian Land

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Guet columnist Steve Sudler and his wife, Andra, are Indian Land residents.

We recently moved to Sun City Carolina Lakes. We were surprised to learn that the “Indian Land” we heard about so often was not a town, but a name used to describe the area of Lancaster County where our home was located.
We were surprised that such a large developed area was not a town – like Fort Mill, Rock Hill or even Waxhaw. Instead, it is governed by Lancaster County.
We learned that South Carolina has laws describing how people in areas like Indian Land can remove themselves from county control and vote to become self-governing. We are grateful to the hundreds of Indian Land residents who volunteered to provide us this opportunity to decide whether local control of our new hometown is important. 
We attended meetings, read many articles in this newspaper, and thought about the risks, rewards and issues – for and against – of forming the town of Indian Land.
We thought about long-term issues, not just the here-and-now. We discussed who can best deliver this vision – a local town government or continued governance by Lancaster County. No other alternatives have been proposed.
We decided we want a local government – elected and accountable to us and focused exclusively on our needs. We will vote yes March 27. Here’s why:
• For an area with 25,000-plus residents, this vote is long overdue. Indian Land needs a government more focused on preparing the area to manage the relentless growth of the future, while protecting the financial and family interests of existing residents.
• It appears county government has quietly ignored the Indian Land area. We have problems and no apparent solutions offered by current government. Indian Land residents do not have the luxury of waiting! We must do what Van Wyck did recently – remove themselves from county government control.
• We found little evidence that county government is taking appropriate budget, policy or staffing actions today to get ahead of the continued explosive IL population growth.
According to Centralina Council of Governments (CCOG), 42-plus people per day are moving into the Charlotte metroplex, which includes Indian Land. They estimate the region will add an additional 1.8 million people by 2050.
Many of these new residents will choose the Indian Land area as their home. New business, jobs and traffic will follow them. Growth is exciting to us – if it is handled properly.
• Being a town would allow Indian Land people to choose 100 percent of their government and hold it accountable. In the past, Indian Land residents seem to have had little influence over what existing county government does.
Creating the town of Indian Land will ensure that no government council approves building a prison near our neighborhoods, big, lighted billboards on our corner, or a smelly paper plant down our road. We will have control.
• The town of Indian Land could secure representation with many regional organizations, such as CCOG and Catawba Regional Council of Governments, where Indian Land interests can be better coordinated and advanced. Access to state and federal funds designated for growth management can be secured. 
• We believe an Indian Land government will better foster a clear sense of community – a sense of civic identity – that the Indian Land community is someplace special. 
• The county’s past investment in public assets and resources in the Indian Land area has been woefully inadequate for a community the size of Indian Land.
Indian Land’s 25,000-plus citizens should enjoy use of local public facilities – libraries that provide adequate meeting spaces, sports fields that encourage more than league play, parks with general recreation, picnic areas and fitness uses for Indian Land citizens.
Few of these facilities exist in Indian Land today. As voters and thereby “owners” of town government, we can assure that these benefits will be available to Indian Land citizens tomorrow.
• Approving local government means we can pay our way, using millions of Indian Land’s existing tax dollars now being used to pay other Lancaster County expenses. A town can also access special federal, state and private programs that provide grants and dollars to offset costs of fast-growing areas like Indian Land.
• The geographic boundaries proposed for the town of Indian Land contain thousands of acres of undeveloped land. The “vote no” people have raised alarm about including this rural land within the boundaries of the town. But these areas are where future development will occur. 
Eventually, this land will be sold when the current landowner gets an offer he can’t refuse. We believe zoning and development standards developed by the new town of Indian Land are the best way to ensure that the excessive development of the past 10 years does not continue.
• Creating the town of Indian Land will affect traffic, congestion and school problems in an indirect but positive way.
State law says the IL Town Council will have no direct authority or responsibility regarding existing schools or maintenance of roads. The effects of past government decisions are with us forever. 
However, we can create and enforce local laws to control and slow IL development growth significantly, reducing additional vehicles and students coming into our already overloaded roads and schools. Existing facilities will serve us longer, delaying additional investment to keep pace with future growth.
• We all pay more taxes to the county, but are getting less community investment in return. County government taxes and fees have increased significantly. Property taxes have increased 16.5 mils in three years. In addition, a fire fee of $90 and a $60 fee for storm-water management are paid only by Indian Land residents. Owners of a $350,000 property in Indian Land are paying over $380 in additional taxes (before tax credits) than they paid in 2015. 
• We understand there will added cost to operate a local town government. But we believe the added costs will be less than the risks of staying with county council governance.  
• No other methods or plans for improving Indian Land problems have been offered – just “vote no.” We believe a no vote means “do nothing” and continue ignoring poor management of Indian Land affairs.
We have experience with what a no vote will bring. It is all around us – and none of us like it! 
We are thankful we can express our beliefs about governing our neighborhood on March 27. Please participate in this historic event and vote your opinion.