If the development Fort Mill in the 21st century were broken down to its component parts, it might look something like this: Build homes, annex land, build schools, rezone schools, repeat.
Views may differ on whether that’s been a good thing, but like it or not, growth will continue to be a fact of life here as long as there’s viable land to build on. That doesn’t mean, however, that Fort Mill has to rush into every new opportunity to expand. It was refreshing to see town council members decide to take a breath before considering a vote on a proposed 1,000-home development.
The 470-acre Waterside on the Catawba subdivision now in the planning stage is mostly outside town limits, but builder Lennar Homes wants to get those parcels annexed into Fort Mill. Rather than do that piecemeal, council decided they should all be voted on at once. Members, after articulating concerns over the impact on roads and schools, decided it was best to pull back on the reins and let all the implications become clear.
Deferring action until the June 10 meeting also allows more time for residents to learn that they will have an opportunity that night to go on record with their views during a public hearing. In the meantime, the builder might come up with a proposal that addresses the traffic issue, council was told last week.
Potentially negative impacts shouldn’t be the sole focus, though. A representative for Lennar Homes said five acres would be set aside for public use, including a soccer field and baseball/softball field that will be desperately needed if only just a fraction of the expected 1,500 kids who will be living in Waterside participate in the town’s recreation leagues. Other public amenities are a hiking trail that could eventually connect to the Carolina Thread Trail and a canoe launch in the Catawba River.
More people also means more opportunities to make new friends. Many of those moving into the community from outside Fort Mill will no doubt be coming here for the excellent schools, and that means parents inclined to be involved in school activities and the community at large. That’s more volunteers and resources for local not-for-profit groups, from the Fort Mill Care Center and the Humane Society of York County, to the Adult Enrichment Center and the Fort Mill Rescue squad – and everything in between. They also represent hundreds of new customers for local businesses.
On the other hand, there’s definitely more than one side to consider and that’s before all the data and anecdotal evidence has been collected. Which is why we hope the council won’t vote the same night of the public hearing if more than a handful of residents show up to testify. It would be better to take a couple of weeks to digest their comments before coming to a decision. Traditionally, few people attend these meetings and speak their mind, but we have a feeling this one might be different.
It was less than a month ago that Fort Mill School District voters approved a $54 million bond sale to expand and build new facilities. And just this past week, the school board heard a presentation on the painstaking task of redrawing attendance zones in what’s become a never-ending shell game intended to keep schools a half-step ahead of population growth.
We think the York County Council can learn a lesson from the Fort Mill Town Council when it comes to confronting growth. Recently, the county council gave initial approval for a 151-acre, 550-home subdivision off Hwy. 160 West. That most congested of thoroughfares is getting a long overdue widening, but those plans may be obsolete by the time this latest subdivision – and others we’ve heard will soon be in the pipeline – will be built out.
County officials need to take a long look at what’s left to be built on in the parts of Fort Mill still in their jurisdiction and consider ways to confinefuture growth to a level that’s manageable, not to mention desirable, by residents already here.
Don’t forget our war dead
Memorial Day is Monday, May 27. The national observance for our country’s war dead is 3 p.m., when we’re all asked to pause and take a moment of silence and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Locally, there are two events residents can attend on Memorial Day:
• 10 a.m. In Fort Mill’s Veteran’s Park on North White Street, a program features guest speaker Craig Neal and a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” by Liza Walker, 2013 S.C. Strawberry Festival Teen Division Queen.
• 11:55 a.m. in the Memorial Garden in Tega Cay, hear keynote speaker Maj. Mark Palmer, a veteran of the war in Iraq and a Bronze Star recipient.