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County Council, November 8

Gives nod to a TIF district in West Ashley
Presentation on Greenbelt program lauded
Warwick Jones

Sometimes there is little or nothing worth reporting from a Council meeting. The meeting of two weeks ago was an example. Yesterday’s was another.

Yesterday’s meeting was relatively short. Two items took up much of the meeting. The first related to support for the City of Charleston’s proposal to create a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to cover properties within the Church Creek Basin in West Ashley. The second related to the County’s Greenbelt program.

The proposed TIF district would cover only those properties along Bees Ferry Road and Glenn McDonnell Parkway, (Bees Ferry Road Corridor) essentially with commercial zoning. The residential properties in the broader area are excluded for the simple reason that there is no scope for further development and therefore it would not be possible for them to contribute to the TIF.

The City plans a $30 million bond issue, the proceeds from which would be used to mitigate flooding problems in the Basin.The interest and amortization of the bonds would come from the TIF funds. Presently the properties generate some $205,000 in property tax for the County and any excess over this amount which stems from development would flow into the TIF during the 25 year duration.

Council was generally in favor of creating the TIF but there were questions. Council member Schweers wanted the funds to be used only for fixing legacy problems related to flooding, They should not be used to assist new development projects. But as Council member Summey added, without new projects there would be no funds flowing into the TIF and some funds from the TIF may be needed to induce new development. Other Council members wanted assurance that the funds would not be spent outside the Church Creek area and that they would go only to addressing flooding.

Council member Johnson wanted to know if the funds could or would be used to mitigate flooding on Johns Island, They wouldn’t, but she noted that there were flooding problems there that need to be addressed.

Council member Schweers also opined that the TIF was not a catalyst for development in the Corridor. He thought that development would happen regardless of the TIF. Notwithstanding, he voted in favor of the TIF along with the rest of the Finance Committee. But we are are not sure precisely what was approved. Council members Moody and Pryor suggested amendments and approval was given to the TIF with these amendments. At the time of voting, the proposed amendments were never read out.

Before final approval can given, there must be a public hearing.

The presentation by Staff on the Greenbelt program was both public relations related and informative. The program which began some 12 years or so ago and which now continues with the second sales tax has been very successful. Staff noted that Greenbelt portion of the County’s web site had been redesigned and improved. It was more detailed and also highlights the success and achievements of the program.

Staff also noted that the County is now open to receiving applications for new funding, The application process has been changed and improved. It essentially will now be an on-line application

The Committee lauded the work of staff and the quality of the presentation