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York County leaders talk about how to face growth at Lake Wylie

Ditching its water and sewer provider, incorporating as a town and adding patrol deputies are some leaders’ ideas to manage growth. The question is which will actually happen.

The Clover-Lake Wylie Republican Women hosted an Oct. 24 event to discuss what residents can do to manage community growth.

Lake Wylie ranked as one of the fastest growing communities in the state at the 2010 Census, and numerous residential projects are in the works. One online listing earlier this year ranked Lake Wylie the top “city on the rise” in the state.

“We’ve got, obviously, some very pressing issues in the area,” said David Larson, assistant county manager.

Overlay expansion

A delayed decision on expanding the Lake Wylie overlay in October could be a blessing for the area, said York County Councilman Bruce Henderson. Henderson believes he has support from other districts –Districts 1 and 6 also have lakefront properties – to expand building limits on multifamily housing near the lake.

“I personally believe we have our quota,” Henderson said.

The council delayed a final vote on a plan that would limit residential building within 2,000 feet of Lake Wylie to larger lot, single-family construction along the S.C. 49 corridor. The county planning commission voted against the plan, but residents largely favored the change in repeated pleas to the council.

The most common argument against the change is that it would negatively impact property values for landowners within the overlay. But Henderson argues that repeated building close to the lake will endanger the community drinking water source.

“In a few more years, it may be 20 or it may be 30, but everybody’s property values are going to decrease,” he said.

Henderson sees the issue as larger than just Lake Wylie, but believes the area can take a lead.

“Republican, Democrat, Independent – whatever you may be – I think we can all agree we need to reduce the density near the lake,” he said.

Land use planning

In the next month or so, York County will launch the task of updating its land use plan. The update will include everything from zoning, housing density and roads to possible recreation sites, population estimates and amenities. But county planners can’t create the plan by themselves.

“It won’t accomplish anything if we can’t attract and get the York County citizens involved,” Larson said.

Public meetings will be held countywide. Larson asked residents to attend and have their say.

“Lake Wylie obviously has extreme importance to us as a county,” he said. “You’ve got an important gateway right down the road.”

Crime

A few years ago, the York County Sheriff’s Office moved to a district-based layout with a lieutenant, sergeant and patrol officers in areas similar to the way school district lines break up the county. The idea was the more local the crime prevention efforts, the better.

The Lake Wylie and Clover district has three or four deputies patrolling at a time.

“We would like to see that number increase,” said Kim Morehouse, assistant public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office.

Morehouse said the community can help by banding together. Communities have “gotten away from knowing our neighbors,” she said.

“People underestimate the importance of our neighborhood watch programs,” she said.

A new booking facility in the eastern part of the county would help keep officers in their districts by cutting down transport time, she said.

While issues like meth labs get lots of attention, the top crime nationwide is prescription drug abuse. Morehouse said it isn’t a stretch to assume Lake Wylie will see more crime as its population swells.

“With any growth, you can assume the drug problem is going to grow as well,” she said.

Schools

Despite the influx of new families and students, leaders in the Clover School District say they are and will remain prepared.

“We are not blind, we are not oblivious, to the growth,” said Mychal Frost, spokesman for the district.

A bond earlier this year to build two new schools, renovate and improve facilities and establish a separate ninth grade academy with Clover High School are part of long-range planning the district completed to tackle the issue of more students. The 3 percent enrollment increase for this year – about 200 students overall – is “almost exact to what the projection was,” Frost said.

The successful bond and continued planning will prepare the district for the next decade or more of incoming students, he said.

“We know students are coming, and we’re going to have space for them when they get here,” Frost said.

Business and incorporation

Charles Wood, chairman of the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce, said the homes already here and the plans to build more than 1,000 new homes could make Lake Wylie attractive for business.

“Hopefully what we’ll see is more business coming to the area, particularly a national restaurant chain,” Wood said.

Part of what challenges a growing Lake Wylie is its loss of hospitality tax money, franchise revenue fees and other sources that come to town and cities nearby.

“Yes, there is an economic plan for Lake Wylie,” Wood said, “and I believe it will come together when we incorporate at some point in the future to become the town of Lake Wylie.”

HTax returns

The county hospitality tax, a 2 percent charge on food and beverage in unincorporated areas, comes largely from the Carowinds area of Fort Mill and Lake Wylie. Residents need to continue pressing County Council, Henderson said, to get more of that money back through tourism-related projects.

Mack McCarter, chairman of the Clover School Board, said even a recent overhaul of the hospitality tax advisory committee could still benefit areas with existing facilities, rather than building a new park or tourism attraction in Lake Wylie.

“We can’t get off the ground,” McCarter said.

Henderson said he believes appointees to the advisory committee are aware of concerns that certain areas shouldn’t pay more than their fair share only to see little or no return.

But the more residents who express that opinion to Council, he said, the better.

“I don’t want to be a donor district anymore,” Henderson said.

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