IL voters OK fire district referendum

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By Reece Murphy

INDIAN LAND – Voters in Indian Land overwhelmingly approved a proposed fire protection tax district in a non-binding advisory referendum Tuesday. The vote was 1,187 in favor and 86 opposed.
The proposed district would raise money for the Indian Land Volunteer Fire Department through a $75 annual fee assessed on homes. Businesses and other users would be assessed at $75 per 2,500 square feet.
The vote is intended to help Lancaster County Council members gauge the community’s support for the proposed district.
Those in favor of the district, such as Indian Land Action Council Secretary Jan Tacy, who helped the group spearhead the proposal, said they were pleased with the results.
“I think it shows what a community can do when they get together and work together for a common cause – something that is for the betterment of the community,” Tacy said. “It’s just one more thing on the list crossed off and a lot more to be done.”
According to the Lancaster County Voter Registration Office, the precinct with the largest numbers of voters was Belair I with 954 voting in favor of the referendum and 26 against it.
The Belair I precinct includes Sun City Carolina Lakes, which turned out a large bloc of voters.
“Out of those 954 (voting at the Belair I poll), “I’d estimate 900 were from Sun City,” Voter Registration Office Director Cassie Stump said.
Life-long Indian Land resident and former 35-year veteran of the Indian Land Volunteer Fire department Mack McDonald doesn’t like it that Sun City residents carried so much weight in the referendum.
“People in Sun City moved here for lower taxes and now they want everybody else’s taxes to go up. And all the benefits go to the county,” McDonald said.
“It’s 100 percent principal of the matter,” he said. “If it was a county-wide ordinance, then that would be OK.”
But McDonald said he has no problem with helping the department and doesn’t begrudge the department benefiting from the district fees.
Though turnout was good in the Belair II precinct, other precincts paled in comparison.
According to the Voter Registration Office:
u Residents of the Belair II precinct voted 141 in favor of the referendum versus 35 against. Belair II includes the Edenmoor and Belair neighborhoods.
u Residents of the Van Wyck  precinct voted 15 in favor versus three against.
u Pleasant Valley II precinct was the only precinct in which referendum foes prevailed, voting 14 against and eight for the district.
u Absentee voters favored the referendum 69 to eight.
Stump said the numbers, though likely accurate, won’t be certified until today.
In all, Stump said the turnout was good for a special election with about 17 percent of eligible voters participating.
“If you get any kind of turnout if it’s not a general election, then you’re lucky,” Stump said. “We usually don’t even get much of a turnout for the primaries.”
County Council is expected to take action on the proposed fire district at its meeting Tuesday night. A public hearing on the issue is set, as is second reading on an ordinance to approve the district.
Final reading of the ordinance is set for Feb. 1.
Council gave the ordinance first reading earlier this month.
If the new district is approved, smaller fire protection districts now in place in the Sun City Carolina Lakes, Belair and Edenmoor communities would be rescinded and be replaced by the broader Indian Land district. Right now, residents of these communities pay a $90 fee annually for fire protection.

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at rmurphy@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151