York County Council can now revisit key issues such as residential growth, land use and utilities. But, after the elections, how will the new council function?
Even returning board members will face questions and changes with new districts and board turnover. The seven-member council has to deal with growth, although it’s different in urban areas like Rock Hill or Fort Mill compared to more rural areas in the west. The Council will establish a budget for law enforcement and other key services.
Here are four things to know about how York County Council is operating ahead of a new cycle:
Fort Mill Township Seats
Prior to redistricting after the 2020 census, three county districts ran through Fort Mill Township. District 1 covered the northern part. Districts 5 and 7 included parts of the middle and south of Fort Mill, but also significant parts of Rock Hill.
While this configuration allowed for the possibility of having up to three representatives in Fort Mill or Tega Cay, the elections did not go that way.
Only District 1, now represented by Tom Audette, has had anyone living east of the Catawba River since district lines were drawn after the 2010 census. Other Fort Mill residents David Bowman (2010 election) and now SC Senator Michael Johnson (2012, 2014, 2016) also represented District 1 at this time.
The new maps guarantee more representation than Fort Mill ever had. District 1 now covers a much smaller geographic area west of I-77 and east of the Catawba. The newly drawn District 7 covers the Fort Mill area east of the highway and no longer dips into Rock Hill. Fort Mill resident Debi Cloninger will represent District 7. She succeeds Rock Hill resident Joel Hamilton, who did not run for office and would no longer reside in the district.
These changes reflect massive residential growth for more than a decade in parts of York County closest to the North Carolina line and neighboring Charlotte. It is the same growth that now has the Fort Mill School District – it includes Fort Mill, Tega Cay and unincorporated areas – larger than the Rock Hill School District.
Fort Mill Township no longer has the option of having three residents on council, as no other districts are entering the area currently, but will be guaranteed two seats for the next decade.
Minority Rock Hill
The new council district configuration will likely elect more representatives from Rock Hill than from any other area, but for the first time, Rock Hill representatives will not constitute a majority.
Audette and Cloninger in Fort Mill join District 2 Representative Allison Love in Lake Wylie and newly elected District 3 Representative Tommy Adkins in York on County Council. Rock Hill recently elected but longtime council member William “Bump” Roddey to District 4 and President Christi Cox to District 5. District 6 will also welcome someone from Rock Hill.
Future elections may change the composition of the council. Two districts are guaranteed representatives of the Fort Mill or Tega Cay areas. Another is locked in Lake Wylie or Clover. Two districts guarantee seats in the Rock Hill area.
One of the two remaining districts covers much of rural western York County, but includes small stretches of Rock Hill as far east as Adnah Church Road and Hands Mill Highway. The other largely comprises Rock Hill, but extends as far west over the county’s southern border towards McConnells. Thus, elections could offer as few as two or as many as four seats in the Rock Hill area at a time.
Special election to fill District 6 seat
It is unclear how the new council will work as the council is not complete.
Councilman Brandon Guffey left the post of District 6 with two years remaining in his term. Guffey was elected Tuesday to SC House District 48. Guffey’s resignation from the county seat leaves an open spot on the board.
A special election will be held on January 3.
Republican Watts Huckabee and Democrat Ryan Stephens are seeking to replace Guffey. A special primary was called off when another Republican challenger withdrew his name. Huckabee and Stephens are residents of Rock Hill. One will serve until the District 6 seat returns in its next election cycle in 2024.
The two new council members, and a third new from January’s special election, will join a group that largely moves in step with county decisions.
Until the end of October, there were 18 regular board meetings this year. At these meetings, the board held 206 substantive votes (not counting votes to close public hearings, return to open session, etc.). All but 23 of those votes – 89% of them – were unanimous.
These substantive votes do not include consent agenda items, which are grouped together and, by definition, must be voted on unanimously. The consent agenda usually contains the most items on any agenda, sometimes three or four times as many as individual votes. Consent agenda items approve money for law enforcement, fund county programs, and perform other business functions.
Of the 206 substantive decisions, the board was only split five times by a 4-3 voting margin.
Several of the 23 non-unanimous votes came on the same issue, such as three votes on whether to abolish a special tax district. Other non-unanimous votes range from open space requirements to time limits on York Schools impact fees to whether the Panthers should have gotten a tax incentive deal for the York Schools headquarters project. Rock Hill that failed.
Most of the 23 votes were for land use and rezoning decisions.
Of the 18 meetings held until last month, seven of them included only unanimous substantive votes.