Ward 3 candidates differ on Fort Mill’s off-site meetings

mharrison@fortmilltimes.comOctober 7, 2013 

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— If Julia Beilsmith is elected to the Fort Mill Town Council in November, there’s at least one way she would differ from the incumbent she’s challenging, she said.

Beilsmith, a candidate for the Ward 3 seat held by Larry Huntley since 2007 – it’s the only contested Fort Mill Town Council race this year – said she’s opposed to the council holding its quarterly Saturday morning workshop meetings outside the town.

“I think you need to have it where people that it effects can be readily available [to attend],” she said, referring to town residents. “So having it on Saturday is good for people who work but want to be involved, but have [the meeting] in their community.”

The only exception, Beilsmith said, should be if the town is hosting county planners or similar guests. In that case, she said, she has no problem meeting in a county facility.

“But if we’re not bringing in people from the county or state level, then it should [be held locally],” Beilsmith said.

Two of the last three quarterly meetings have been held at the government complex in Chester, about 30 miles away, and the other was in York. Town officials said they do not keep minutes or otherwise document what they discuss at the meetings – something else on which she and Huntley have differing opinions.

“They should at least notate what was discussed in the meetings,” she said.

Huntley, who first won his council seat in a special election and then ran uncontested for re-election to a second, full term, said the town council has held its quarterly meetings in Fort Mill in the past but he doesn’t consider it an issue as long as they are not conducted too far from town.

“I don’t have a problem just going to Clover or York or Chester County,” he said. “Now, if you make a jump and go to Hilton Head, I would have a problem with that, but [otherwise] it’s almost no cost to the town because the only cost is food for lunch because we all pile in a few cars [to travel].”

Among the top issues Beilsmith said she would make a priority is roads and new water/sewer lines and sidewalks for the Paradise community. The town is trying to win a community block grant to spend on improvements to Paradise.

“Aging infrastructure is something that part of my ward will be dealing with,” said Beilsmith, who moved to Fort Mill from Tampa, Fla. about a year and-a-half ago and now resides in the Springfield community.

If the town doesn’t obtain the community block grant, Beilsmith said the council needs to start planning to pay for the work on its own.

“Maybe in a five-year, or 10-year plan,” she said. “I know the city can’t just come up with a couple of million dollars to do that so we’ll have to look at it in a fashion where we don’t have to pay for it now, but start to discuss it with the people intimately involved with it now and start planning.”

She also referenced rush hour traffic along Springfield Parkway and said she’s concerned that the last traffic study conducted there didn’t give a true picture of the heavy volume that road handles.

“I heard they did the study during the summer, not when school was in session.” Beilsmith said.

“When you see the traffic that’s out there when you have to leave 8:30 to 9 o’clock in the morning and if you know anything about the Springfield area and about all the schools and all the people out there, it’s crazy in the morning.”

Another issue Beilsmith cited is growth.

“Growth needs to be managed appropriately,” she said. “It seems that the way the city’s mapped out, you see what’s happening on the other side of [Interstate] 77 and we need to be sure we plan appropriately with York County.”

Huntley, meanwhile, said he plans to focus on providing adequate recreation facilities in the growing town. That’s going to be more challenging he said, after the town’s lease with Leroy Springs and Co. to us it’s recreation complex and the surrounding playing fields ends in a few more years. Plans for the complex after the agreement ends are unknown, but LSC has signaled the desire to redevelop the property for residential and retail use.

The town also anticipates losing the Banks Street gym as the former school complex it’s part of is also redeveloped.

“Losing the [Leroy Springs] complex and the fields outside the complex and the old high school gym means we’re going to have to address recreation,” Huntley said. “Thank goodness the new development by the river has 27 acres that we’ll be able to use for recreation [fields],” he said.

There’s another issue Huntley said he wants to continue to work on in a third term.

“There’s a problem with a lack of commercial development,” he said.

“I think the new apartments being built behind Hardee’s (at the top of Main Street at Tom Hall Street) will be a catalyst for that,” Huntley said. “I’d like to see more restaurants downtown, too. If you look at the restaurants in Rock Hill, other than Outback, they are in clusters. They do better that way than standing by themselves. It would be good if we had two or three downtown and we’re working on that.”

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