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The Indian Land Fire Protection District is now a reality.
Lancaster County Council unanimously approved final reading of an ordinance to establish the new district at its meeting Tuesday night.
The new district establishes funding for an Indian Land Fire Protection District through rates and charges to Indian Land property owners. The ordinance also repeals the special tax districts in the Panhandle neighborhoods of Sun City Carolina Lakes, Edenmoor and Belair.
Council moved forward with the ordinance after voters in Indian Land overwhelmingly approved the fire protection tax district in a non-binding referendum on Jan. 18. The vote was 1,187 in favor and 86 opposed.
Under the new district’s regulations, homeowners will be charged an annual fee of $75. Properties other than single or multi-family homes will be charged according to square footage. There will be no charge on properties with no structures.
The money from the fee can only be used to fund certain items in the fire district such as permanent improvements and capital expenditures. That includes buildings, equipment and infrastructure for fire protection and to pay off debt on general obligation bonds or leases.
Before the Tuesday vote by council, several residents spoke in favor of, and against, the issue during public comments and a special public hearing.
Indian Land resident Andy Hetzel told council he didn’t approve of the process of setting up the district.
“The overall concept of the plan is fine to enhance existing services,” Hetzel said. “But the way the Indian Land Action Council has gone about this is misleading.”
Hetzel disagreed with most of Indian Land’s residents having to pay a special tax that only three neighborhoods had previously been paying.
“Five years ago it seemed fine for county council for these neighborhoods to take on the extra burden,” he said.
ILAC member Ted Hoover supported the creation of the fire protection district and asked council members to support its approval/
“To me it’s fair because those who pay benefit from the service,” Hoower said. “Council has a chance to score a touchdown by agreeing to this issue.”
During the public hearing, resident J.R. Wilt worried that not every property owner would have to pay the fee.
“Let it be noted businesses that come here with incentives will not pay this tax,” Wilt said. “We’re asking that everyone must pay the same.”
Wilt also felt the $75 annual fee would be too much money for some homeowners to bear.
“I think a Sun City resident gets more than poor residents do. Now he (poor resident) has a $75 bill he didn’t have before. And he has no voice in how it’s spent,” Wilt said.
Frances Liu approves the new fire protection district, but has concerns about the results of the public referendum.
“Let’s not be naive enough to say this is a mandate,” Liu said. “No one can say if it was a vote to lower a burden or to create a fee.”
“Let’s make sure in the future we don’t have elections like this,” she said.