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Hucks column: Incorporating Indian Land will bring more growth, not less

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Guest columnist Steve Hucks is a resident of Van Wyck.

I think everyone can agree that the No. 1 way to control growth is to keep those with large tracts from selling their land. That is not always an easy thing to do and when land prices skyrocket, it can be tough for some to pass on the windfall of money.
Whether incorporated or not, there will be some who will sell and when they do sell, we all know who will be buying – developers. But if you want to guarantee that the vast majority sell out and sell out fast, then incorporate and make it tougher on them to care for their families.
Most farmers operate on tight margins and, with the cyclical nature of the business, times can get tough some years. If we add the burdens of operating in a municipality, you will basically accelerate the growth and population density (i.e. traffic, school impacts, etc.) that you are hoping to alleviate.
One could make the argument of incorporating part of IL, but to make an egocentric move to instantly become the fifth largest municipality in the state at about 59 square miles is ludicrous. I do understand the logic of Voters for a Town of Indian Land (TOIL) including such a large area of undeveloped farm land (over 40 percent of the proposed land mass) though, and we should all be able to see through the smoke and recognize it for what it truly is. By doing so, they greatly increase the “future tax base” of the town. I say future because the farms will still be taxed at an agricultural use rate, which significantly reduces the taxes owed each year.
This is not something that is ideal because your cost to deliver services to these sparsely populated areas creates a burden on each taxpayer in the municipality. But they are not worried because they know that by incorporating these areas, they will be able to control the growth, and in essence promote it, by pushing the farmers out so that growth can happen. That is how they increase their tax base.
For those who think the farmers just have this “sky is falling” mentality, let me assure you what I am saying is true. We have friends all over who have farmed, and we have seen them get pushed out one after another from cities like Pineville, Charlotte, Fort Mill, Marvin and others, not because they wanted to leave, but simply because it no longer became profitable to stay.
There are some who disagree with my assessment and think that TOIL wants to put the brakes on growth. If you believe that, they have pulled the wool over your eyes. In order for the municipality to thrive, growth is a key element. Otherwise, the increasing tax burden would have to be absorbed by fewer people and we know what that means. One of the members of the group told me personally that he looked forward to seeing my land developed.
What many do not realize is that when farmers are placed into a municipality, they lose many protections afforded to them by the state. The protections can be very far-reaching and too numerous to list, but it is no secret that farms and cities just don’t go together well.
So, if you live in the high-density area north of Sun City (what I call the true Indian Land), and think that if you move ahead and vote for this incorporation proposal as written, and the folks in Van Wyck and North Corner will thank you later, let me assure you that you are mistaken.
A vote for incorporation is not a vote to slow down growth. While it may appear to be so at face value, the implications would mean just the opposite. What you will probably get instead is far fewer farms and more and more neighbors who can join in the grumbling as you sit in longer lines of traffic trying to get your kids to even more overcrowded schools because the Indian Land city council members will not have your best interest at heart, kind of like the grumbling now regarding the county. The grumbling will not stop, no surprise there.
It is worth mentioning that the new census is coming up and with that, by law, district lines will be redrawn to account for the current population density. That will give IL more voice on County Council, and isn’t that the main thing you want? None of us want two layers of government if it is not needed. I talk to many people who move here from other areas and many of them say they moved for the same reasons – to get away from the higher cost of living and headaches of living in a city. Doesn’t make much sense to move back in that direction. Even one of the men associated with TOIL, a past mayor of a town in New Jersey, is quoted in his local paper as having moved to the Carolinas because the higher taxes in his municipality were too much to bear. I guess some people do not learn.
I understand the frustrations of those in IL. I do. I grew up on Possum Holler Road back when it was mostly a dirt road. We grumbled when the red hill above the auction barn would get ruts during the winter. Grumbling is not new, you see. But we were patient and understood the challenges and we communicated with our representatives and the appropriate people.
I have seen the growth come in. In 1991, I moved south of Indian Land to the North Corner community, but still drive in Indian Land frequently. I have many friends in IL who are feeling the pressures of growth. I get it.
I am also a business person and do not mind investing money into a worthwhile project. In my mind, taxes are just that – an investment. I define worthwhile as something that will give me a significant return on my investment. I have studied the proposal of TOIL for well over a year now and I do not see any of us getting the return we are hoping for. The advantages are just not there and when they are, for the most part, they are insignificant.
I feel confident that the majority of those in the proposed boundaries are adamantly opposed to the incorporation effort.
However, my confidence level is lower as to the likelihood of it being voted down. The problem is that those who are in favor of incorporating will show up in full force at the polls, and those adamantly opposed will also show up. But the large number of people who are either unaware or just not engaged will go to work that day to read about it in the paper the next day, many not even aware of what is going on until they receive their first new property tax notice, if it is approved.
We need to get the word out to everyone. That means talking to your neighbors and your neighbor’s neighbor. Present the plan from TOIL, but also the opposing viewpoint and let each one decide for themselves. Hopefully, in the next few months, we can get that message out to all before it is too late.