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Voters OK town of Van Wyck

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By Reece Murphy

Van Wyck residents overwhelmingly voted to become a town during Tuesday’s incorporation election.
Residents of the community’s 1.4-square-mile “original incorporation area” voted 67-7 to incorporate, according to Lancaster County elections officials. Incorporation is the first step in a plan that calls for the new town to grow through voluntary annexation of adjacent properties.

Election turnout was 26 percent of a possible 284 votes.
The vote fends off Van Wyck’s aggressive neighbor to the north, Indian Land, where a proposal to incorporate almost the entire Panhandle threatened to gobble up the fiercely independent rural enclave.
“This shows Van Wyck knows what’s best for Van Wyck,” an exultant Pat Oglesby said after the votes came in, aiming her comments at Indian Land.
Oglesby, one of the effort’s original organizers, celebrated with other residents outside the Van Wyck Community Center Tuesday evening.
In addition to the incorporation itself, the voters decided five other issues related to the new town’s identity and form of government.
Residents voted 72-1 to call the new municipality “the town of Van Wyck.” Someone wrote in “Van Deanville.”
The town will have a council form of government with a mayor and four council members, all elected to two-year terms in nonpartisan, at-large races.
To start, the town’s border will run east from the railroad tracks at S.C. 5 to the intersection of Van Wyck Road, then southeast along Van Wyck Road to the intersection of Steele Hill Road. The boundary continues northeast on Steele Hill Road to the intersection of Old Hickory Road, southeast on Old Hickory Road to S.C. 5, then northwest on S.C. 5 to the railroad tracks.
The town is expected to grow as scores of contiguous property owners who have already expressed interest in joining voluntarily are annexed into the municipality. The entire community of Van Wyck has about 2,500 residents.
After hearing the results of the vote, Van Wyck incorporation commissioner Sean Corcoran, like most other community members, was exuberant. Corcoran said the community wouldn’t officially become a municipality until it elects a town council sometime in November.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Corcoran said. “The next step is we’ve got to canvass the vote on Friday, then we’ve got to send the results down to the secretary of state’s office. Then he’ll issue a certificate of incorporation.
“As soon as we get that, we’re off to electing our first council,” he said.
Tuesday’s incorporation vote is the culmination of an effort that began in early 2016.
Though voters had rejected calls for incorporation to ward off unwanted development two years earlier, an incorporation effort by Indian Land that threatened to engulf the much smaller and rural Van Wyck was enough to push residents to support incorporation.
Voters at the polls said to a person that the Indian Land threat helped them make up their minds.
“It certainly did for me,” Van Wyck resident Brenda Adams said. “We’re our own people. You’ve got enough in Indian Land, so leave us alone.”
“It was the Indian Land effort. That’s what moved me to vote,” said Jackie Long, who went to the poll with her husband, Eugene. “We’re probably going to have to pay more taxes in the long run, but still….”
Van Wyck Incorporation Committee Chairwoman Linda Vaughan, who helped organize the effort along with other committee members about a year and a half ago, said she was relieved the hard work to preserve Van Wyck’s rural identity through incorporation has paid off.
“I think all of us feel the same way, that we just did not want to see Van Wyck swallowed up,” Vaughan said. “If that had’ve happened, Van Wyck would have been erased, and our identity would have been wiped off the map.
“It just seems like we’ve been working so hard to reach our goal,” Vaughan said. “Finally, we’re going down the racetrack and we can see the end, and we’re going to bust through that ribbon as winners.”

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151 or follow on Twitter @ReeceTLN.