The Van Wyck News

Volume 6 Number 15
A Voice for Freedom        4 August 2014
  Van Wyck Zoning
     The County is in the process of revising its Comprehensive Plan and the second three elements will be presented at the Planning Commission Work Session meeting on 7 August at 5:00 PM in the County administration Building, 101 N. Main St., Lancaster. The consultant, Robby Moody at the Catawba River Council of Governments, will start work on the final three elements, which include the Future Land Use Map, this month.
     Van Wyck is mostly zoned R30P, 1.5 houses per acre on the current Future Land Use Map. Land used for farming is not presently zoned for farming. Typical lot sizes in Van Wyck are at least one acre and most likely more. Moreover, R30P is eligible for Cluster Development, which is highly unsuitable for Van Wyck. One of the objectives of the Comprehensive Plan is to preserve the character of local communities; this is not happening in Van Wyck, where the current zoning is encouraging cluster development that the area does not have the infrastructure to support..
     The County does not presently have a zoning classification that would apply to areas like Van Wyck, which are predominately agricultural, with large lots. R45 comes closest in the present lexicon, with one acre lots. In addition, R45 is not eligible for Cluster Development. It would seem appropriate to rezone the areas of Van Wyck presently zoned R30P to R45 in the present Comprehensive Plan and to seek development of new zoning types more suitable to this area when the UDO is rewritten next year.

UDO Rewrite
     The Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) is the County ordinance governing the details of land use and construction standards for Lancaster County. The Comprehensive Plan and the Future Land Use Map are the broad brush picture of what the County should look like in the future; the UDO is the detail of how this vision is to be implemented. 
     The Comprehensive Plan is being rewritten (again) this year and is expected to be completed in October and approved by Council by 31 December 2014, when the current Council dies. The UDO rewrite is expected to begin in January 2015 and to be complete by 31 December 2015. Council did commission a preliminary look at the UDO by the consultant (Catawba Region Council of Governments); this preliminary look was presented to County Council at its 28 July meeting.     
     If past practice is any indication, this rewrite of the UDO will be touted as having a great deal of public input, but public input will actually be limited to a few desultory "What do you like?" meetings before the writing starts. Any opportunity for public review of the drafts will be provided as I manage to get hold of the drafts and publish them here, as was done with the first three chapters of the Comprehensive Plan in the 20 July 2014 issue of the Van Wyck News.   
     The next three chapters of the Comprehensive Plan should be available at the 7 August 2014 worksession meeting of the Planning Commission; I expect to be at the meeting and to make them available on this website soon after the meeting.

Capital Project Sales Tax
    At its meeting on 31 August the Capital Project Sales Tax Committee received the news that a revision to the state law governing the sales tax had provided that for sales taxes imposed after 3 June 2009, unprepared food was exempt from the tax. The Courthouse tax was imposed 1 May 2009 and is not affected by this change. It is not clear when the Legislature made this change to the law, but what is clear is that revenue from the proposed new Capital Project Sales tax will be closer to $37.5MM than the $44MM that was used for the previous proposal. It is also clear that reprogramming of many cash registers will be required to implement the new tax due to the change in the items on which the tax will be due.
     Steve Willis, County Administrator, had prepared a specific list of road projects to be funded by the proposed Capital Project Sales Tax. These road projects are taken from the SCDOT Road list (51.17 miles) and the County roads list (26.47 miles) and were selected as much to provide longer segments and provide something for everyone across the County as for any performance criteria. Note that the roads in the worst shape on the County list are given Priority 3, not Priority 1 as might be expected.
     Assuming that the voters approve the imposition of the sales tax in November, the Commission decided to bond $16.5 MM of the money at an interest cost of about $1.1MM. This will provide access to these funds in about May 2015, to fund $12.5 MM in roads and $4MM of the EMS Radio system. The capacity of local firms to pave roads is about $5MM per year, so road paving can begin in mid 2015 and continue for 2.5 years using this money. The EMS Radio system will have the money to begin the tower building phase of the radio project at the same time.
     Money from the new tax is not expected to begin coming in until January 2016, because the Courthouse bond must be paid off before the new tax can begin. The Courthouse bond is expected to be paid in October 2015, and the first check for the new tax will arrive from DOR in January 2016. This money will come in from DOR on a quarterly basis and will accumulate in a special account to be paid out as follows: First to make the payments on the bonds, second to fund the Sheriff's crime lab  at $238k, expected to be fully funded in Q1 2016. Third to fund an additional $3.5MM for the EMS Radio system, expected to be fully funded in Q3 2016. Fourth, to provide $8MM for the Library, expected to be funded in 2019. Finally, money coming in from the final three years of the project will be used to fund the rest of the roads on the list until the project is over and the money runs out. It is anticipated that this will be an additional $12MM for roads, and that road projects at the end of the list will simply not be funded.
     It is not possible to project either the tax revenue or the project cost with any accuracy this far in advance. The general philosophy behind this proposal is that the roads projects and the EMS systems will be started in 2015 using bond money. The EMS radio system and the library were both funded at less than the full amount requested by the agencies involved in the anticipation that each would use the time between passage of the tax by the voters and availability of the funds to seek additional funding from other sources. The roads projects would be funded at about $5MM per year, which is about what local contractors can handle,  from mid 2015 until funds run out at the end of the project in 2021. If the economy does better than expected and tax collections are higher than expected, the excess money will fund additional road projects. When the money runs out, road projects not yet funded will be dropped.
     There is some additional work to be done, framing the actual ballot question in particular, and the matter must be presented at the 11 August County Council meeting. Council will have to either approve or reject the proposal at that time since the State Elections Commission must have the approved ballot question by 15 August if the matter is to appear on the November ballot.

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LCEDC Strategic Plan
     The Lancaster County Economic Development Corporation is in the process of adopting a new strategic plan, and for the first time Van Wyck will have its own session on that plan. Joshua Langen, Project Manager with the Lancaster County Economic Development Corporation, is scheduled to speak at the 5 August meeting of the Community Development Club.   
CDC Meeting
     The Van Wyck Community Development Club will meet Tuesday, 5 August 2014 at the Community Development Center. The meeting will begin promptly at 7:00 PM with a brief presentation by Josh Langen of the Lancaster Economic Development Corporation on his organization's new Strategic Plan. The meeting will emphasize preparations for the Celebrate Van Wyck event on 6 September and will include an update on the Treetops situation by Jack Wilt.     
J.R. Wilt, Editor