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Aiken County Council decision threatens proposed GreenJackets stadium in North Augusta

Tax extension rejected

Wednesday, March 6, 2013 5:55 PM
Last updated Thursday, March 7, 2013 2:15 AM
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North Augusta officials were reeling Wednesday after taking an unexpected blow to plans for a $160 million riverfront development from the Aiken County Council that now threatens a proposed stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets.

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An artist's rendering shows the proposed North Augusta development and baseball stadium in relation to the Savannah River and 13th Street bridge.  FILE
An artist's rendering shows the proposed North Augusta development and baseball stadium in relation to the Savannah River and 13th Street bridge.

Mayor Lark Jones said Tuesday night’s 4-2 vote against extending the tax increment financing district caught everyone off guard.

“We were surprised,” Jones said. “We felt like the county would support it. Going into this, we got the impression with the county that we had no problems.”

The proposed development, dubbed “Project Jackson,” includes a stadium, a 200-room resort-style hotel and conference center; up to four restaurants; 75 townhouses; 225 apartments; 30,000 square feet of retail space; 40,000 square feet of office space; and 900 parking spaces.

Under the proposal, the city would be responsible for about 30 percent of the financing, about $43 million for the sports and entertainment center, conference center and parking garage. In exchange, private developers promised $122 million in investment for the hotel, retail, residential and office space, officials said.

To come up with its portion of the financing, North Augusta would collect property taxes through the TIF district – meaning it would get tax revenue on the incremental difference between rising property values and values for Aiken County, which would remain frozen at 1996 levels for 30 years.

Supporters of the project expressed frustration and dejection at the council vote.

Chris Schoen, of Green­stone Properties, the development group behind the proposed project, issued a statement Wednesday saying, “It is apparent that we have not done a thorough job of educating the public and the County Council about how the funding of this project works.”

Councilwoman Kathy Rawls, who voted against the measure, said she and others on the council were skeptical of the baseball stadium and opposed to extending the TIF district, which was set to expire in 2016.

“The big problem is that they are including the former TIF in with the new TIF, and those property values would be locked in at the 1996 values,” she said. “That would not change until 2046. That is unreal.”

Rawls said she also received a number of calls from residents opposed to the project.

She said she could consider supporting a revised financing proposal that still included the hotel, but not with a stadium for the GreenJackets, whose owners decided to leave Augusta after failing to get a stadium built there.

“I have a lot of doubts about the success of the baseball stadium and the location,” she said. “I don’t see how that baseball stadium could succeed when it hasn’t succeeded two miles away.”

Councilman Chuck Smith, whose district includes North Augusta, said he doesn’t think his fellow council members understand the tax district financing very well. He said the plans were carefully thought through by city officials and there isn’t much room for revision.

“There a chance, but it is a very remote chance,” Smith said. He said those opposed to the plan are focusing on short-term lost property tax revenue and not on growth in jobs and future taxes the project is expected to generate. He said those rewards far outweigh any short-term impact from the tax financing.

“I think 2,700 jobs goes a long way to help people pay their property taxes,” he said. “What needs to be our focus in the CSRA is creating jobs, and if we do that we will take care of economic development.”

Jones said that officials weren’t ready to scrap the plan yet but that its chances for success have diminished greatly.

He said they might go back to the council with a revised plan, if one can be worked out with developers.

“We aren’t dead yet, but we are on life support,” he said. “We needed their help, and it is unfortunate that they didn’t see the big picture.”



BACKGROUND: North Augusta officials and developers on Dec. 19 unveiled a proposal for “Project Jackson,” a high-density town center on the Savannah riverbank beside Hammond’s Ferry that would include a sports and entertainment center for the Augusta GreenJackets.


• On Tuesday, Aiken County Council voted 4-2 against extending the tax increment funding district, which North Augusta was depending on to help fund the project.

• On Wednesday, North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones said officials and developers might go back to the county council with a revised plan.

Comments (35) Add comment
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GnipGnop 03/07/13 - 05:20 pm
You don't think....

a motel less than a mile away from the Mariott will get any business? Please tell me you didn't go to business school....

travisp73 03/07/13 - 11:03 pm
You can put "north " in.....

......front of it all you want. Its the same ol Augusta.

jleyes 03/08/13 - 12:05 am
Dear Bettybugs: To the best

Dear Bettybugs: To the best of my knowledge that development agreement is an early version of what you see now. Leyland Alliance -north Augusta riverfront LLC is working with Greenstone on this development. This is now consolidated, not a separate agreement just in a different format. Without this project there won't be a 53,000 sq feet of mixed used or 376 residential units, the land will be sitting idle for quite sometime. This is not some situation where if we say "no" to this we get "this" instead. You'll get what you have with very small growth and development that will take years.

Beattybugs 03/08/13 - 08:10 am
Dear Jleyes -- Well Your Knowledge is Wrong

Instead of relying on "the best of your knowledge" why don't you go online and read the Ordinance I cited. That ordinance enacts an agreement signed on January 8, 2013 to develop that very same property with the details I noted earlier. At the last reading of the ordinance they inserted an "out" clause if they were able to develop "Project Jackson" a/k/a Baseball stadium. While you are online why don't you google the economic impact of minor league stadiums and teams. You will find they have zero, nada, no ecomonic impact. They are sold to communities as economic engines, and they have no impact other than to soak up tax dollars that should be spent on police, fire safety, local government services, and schools. You can have your opinion, and I doubt I will convince you otherwise, but you can't have your own the facts. And those, my friend, are the facts!

jleyes 03/08/13 - 12:31 pm
Beattybugs - not sure why you

Beattybugs - not sure why you are taking such a hostile tone. I did read the agreement and am familiar, that development will take several years and will rely upon additional developers to get engaged. Its just a different take on what was proposed for Town Center originally. As you can see that master plan hasn't happened and this new plan doesn't guarantee the build out or give a guarantee of a time frame. I didn't say nothing would get built but it will be a far far cry from what you believe in this agreement and will take several several years and have be done in small increments. I know I'm not going to change your mind so I will stop trying to. We agree to disagree. The business community (87% of the North Augusta Chamber) are in favor of this project. I believe it to be an awesome project that will bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars annually. Despute what you want but I am not alone in this thinking and recognize the error of my way is trying to bring civility to a message board with some folks with closed minds. Today though it is an undeveloped field. Project Jackson would revolutionize North Augusta. That is my opinion, I'm clearly not alone and see no point in arguing with you otherwise.

Beattybugs 03/08/13 - 04:34 pm
Quit Making it Up

The agreement, if you read it, only went in place 8 weeks ago. And the City has no hotel identified, and no agreement in hand for their vaunted "Project Jackson." Governments need to get out of the business of picking winners and losers. Revolutionize North Augusta? your're right, we (the taxpayers of N. Augusta) would revolt against the tyranny of taxing people to build loser stadiums and an ugly 4-level cement parking garage crammed up against the brick ponds. Even if nothing is ever built there (highly unlikely given the experience of Hammond's Ferry and the River Club) so what, is there something wrong with a little wilderness in an urban setting? Washington likes picking winners, that repeatedly lose, now we have local pols with too much ego, and developers with too little cash sucking on the public teat to build a stadium. If that's anyone's idea of progress, how 'bout sending my tax money back.

It would be nice if you stuck to the facts -- there is an agreement in place to build there, and the plan is a pretty good one. Saying that nothing will happen for another 50 years is just the opposite of the truth -- they don't allow you to use the "L" word.

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