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Mertes column: After listening to Voters for Town of IL, I oppose plan

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Guest columnist Jim Mertes is an Indian Land resident.

Recently, I was invited to attend a meeting held by the Voters for a Town of Indian Land group, which is promoting the incorporation of Indian Land.
I went to the meeting with an open mind to hear their side of the story. After their presentation and the Q&A period, I left with the impression that those who presented (Matt McCusker and Jerry Holt) were neither transparent nor forthright in their presentation. It was obvious that they presented a political spin job.
First, they insinuated in their PowerPoint presentation that the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) supports their attempt to incorporate IL. This is not accurate. MASC is a neutral third party that assists in the incorporation effort, but it does not promote incorporation efforts.
Second, photos were shown of Independence Boulevard in Charlotte as a scare tactic that U.S. 521 in IL could look like that. Charlotte is incorporated and it has not been successful in controlling growth and sprawl in that area. Why would we think incorporation would halt or reduce growth around U.S. 521?
Has the incorporation of Fort Mill or Tega Cay been able to control growth in those areas? Anyone who works or drives in either area knows the answer is  “no.” What makes the TOIL group think that an incorporated town of IL would be any more successful in controlling growth?
In an attempt to show how local control would be beneficial, McCusker referred to the McClancy issue that affected BridgeMill by saying that after voting to deny McClancy a zoning variance, Lancaster County Council changed its mind. That is true. But McCusker failed to tell the rest of the story. County Council eventually did deny McClancy the zoning variance. BridgeMill resident involvement, including myself, caused council to deny the variance. Who knows what an IL town council would have done.
The proposed budget is an issue also. First, McCusker said the proposed budget was done by professionals. When pressed on the issue, Holt finally admitted he did the budget himself.
The Voters for a Town of Indian Land representatives failed to provide the audience with the line items to support their proposal. As everyone knows, the devil is in the details, and they failed to share the details for the expense and income sides of their proposal. Also, no three-year or five-year budget was presented. Why not?
They showed an expense budget of around $7.7 million, but did not provide any comparatives for communities in the area. Why not? The income side showed about $2.2 million revenue for building permit fees. This accounts for almost 28 percent of total projected revenue. Is this in contradiction to their stated intent to control growth?
If this revenue dries up, where will the replacement revenue come from? Tax increases? Can you truly run a town of about 58 square miles with a population the size of IL on $7.7 million and provide the necessary services? I doubt it.
One of their slides said the IL city council would not be another layer of government. Maybe that is only semantics. The fact is there would be more government; no denying that. If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck….
Another item that bothered me was that a Sun City Carolina Lakes resident stood up and asked if she could remove her signature from the petition. This was met with the question, “Why did you sign it in the first place?” This was a totally inappropriate response to her question. McCusker shook his head indicating that she could not remove her signature. The lesson here is be careful what you sign.
This lack of transparency and forthrightness on the part of the TOIL representatives swayed me to not support incorporation for IL. TOIL cannot guarantee that roads will be improved, sprawl will be controlled or that your voice will be heard any more than it already is.
The only guarantee is that our taxes will increase and we do not know by how much since their budget is most likely grossly understated. Remember, government never gets smaller, it only grows and needs more revenue each year.
Based on the presentation and lack of all the information, I have to ask myself, what is the hidden agenda of the TOIL group? I am convinced there is one, whether it is to gain power for themselves, land development opportunities or something else.
Be careful, IL citizens. If IL becomes incorporated, that is a bell that cannot be unrung easily (if at all).