FORT MILL — Special to the Fort Mill Times
More police protection and lower water bills have led some Fort Mill Township residents to consider requesting annexation into Fort Mill Town limits.
Homeowners in the Huntington Place and Parkridge communities came together to discuss the pros and cons of annexation into Fort Mill during a community meeting held Saturday at the Spratt Building.
The residents initiated the annexation process by reaching out to the city of Fort Mill, said Joe Cronin, assistant town manager. The meeting was held to inform the residents of both the costs and benefits of annexation and the process behind it.
“We educate, not advocate,” Cronin said. “[Annexation] is a community decision.”
The annexation process must be initiated by residents within the community, Cronin said. “[The process] is designed to protect the interests of property owners,” he said.
Annexation for these communities became a possibility after the nearby Sandy Pointe neighborhood was annexed into Fort Mill last year. Annexation follows a process that includes a public hearing, a vote by residents to formally request annexation and approval by the town council.
For Huntington Place residents, a closer police force and a decrease in their water and sewage rates would make it worthwhile to annex into Fort Mill, some said. Town residents currently pay half of what county residents pay for water, Cronin confirmed. Residents in unincorporated Fort Mill are in the jurisdiction of the county sheriff’s office.
The Town of Fort Mill also has a fire department that includes paid, vocational firefighters.
Sherri Steel, a Huntington Place resident for the last year and a half, said she would feel more protected having the town police nearby.
“I love the county, but we would have city police right there,” she said.
Steel also helped spread the word about annexation within the communities.
“It’s been open to everybody,” she said.
Other benefits to annexation include low-cost garbage collection and code enforcement. It also provides residents with a greater voice on local issues, Cronin said.
However, residents who annex would pay more in property taxes. The average market value for a home in Huntington Place is $106,427, meaning homeowners would see an increase of about $300 in their property taxes. Parkridge residents would see a higher increase since the average value of property in that community is $124,693. The increased tax is the biggest cost associated with annexation, Cronin said.
This tax is the main concern of Parkridge resident Jeremy Walters, who built his home in 2005.
“We have no money to pay these taxes,” he said.
Walters, chairman of the York County Libertarian Party and a candidate for the S.C. House last fall, said he plans to go to court if the community pursues annexation.
“We just don’t want it,” he said. “It is inevitable that we will be annexed, but we want to hold it off until the economy gets better.”
Waters described Parkridge as a close-knit community and said he has not met anyone in the area who wants annexation to occur.
However, some Parkridge residents expressed interest during the meeting in learning more about the process.
Huntington Place can be annexed with the undeveloped Lakebridge community, separate from Parkridge, Cronin said.
The most feasible annexation process would include a petition circulated by residents and signed by at least 25 percent of registered voters in the community, Cronin said. The council will then certify the petition and request the county to hold a special election. Once the election takes place, if the majority vote supports annexation, the results are published.
If no current town resident contests the decision, the council can approve annexation. The process takes months to complete.
“We’ve been through this before and are happy to do it again if it is something the residents are interested in,” Cronin said.
Adding these communities to Fort Mill would bring the town additional tax revenue and help officials spread the costs of services, such as police and fire, among more residents, Cronin said. It also helps the town provide better service to its residents.
“It puts more of Fort Mill in Fort Mill,” Cronin said.