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Project Jackson lawsuit hearings scheduled for next week

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North Augusta city leaders and an opponent of a planned riverfront development will play ball next week in front of a South Carolina judge who will decide the fate of a new Augusta GreenJackets ballpark.

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Stephen Donohue spoke during a public hearing in October 2013 on the revised Tax Increment Financing District, which would be used to help fund Project Jackson.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Stephen Donohue spoke during a public hearing in October 2013 on the revised Tax Increment Financing District, which would be used to help fund Project Jackson.

Circuit Court Judge Earnest Kinard will preside over testimony for a lawsuit filed by North Augusta resident Stephen Donohue against the city of North Augusta, the mayor and city council. The lawsuit claims a city ordinance passed to help fund the development violates the state’s Tax Increment Financing Law because there was no evidence to support the development area as blighted or a conservation area, as required for a TIF district.

Kelly Zier, attorney for the city, said the judge should make a decision on the case within 30 days of the hearings that begin June 26 in Aiken County.

With a pending lawsuit, North Augusta planners cautiously proceeded with the $144 million Project Jackson development. North Augusta City Administrator Todd Glover said plans slowly progressed, but they have revised the development’s layout and fielded interest from various businesses and a hotel.

“We’ve been moving along with some planning. We’ve tried not to spend needlessly but have to keep going if we’re going to meet some deadlines,” Glover said.

The city needs to resolve the lawsuit quickly to solidify deals with private businesses and open the stadium in spring 2016, he said. The city has its eye on hosting a University of South Carolina versus Clemson University ballgame in 2016.

“Nobody wants to sign any documents with a lawsuit hanging out there,” Glover said.

Construction of the stadium will take about 14 months, he said.

By this fall, planners intend to break ground on a parking garage, which the city offered as an incentive for Medac Inc. relocating to the Project Jackson site from Augusta, Glover said. A two-story, 60,000-square-foot office building is planned for the medical billing company’s headquarters.

Zier said the ordinance that permitted the TIF district, which was originally created in 1996 and modified for the development, is not illegal. There is blight in the 457-acre district, and blight does not have to be proven in the specific 25 acres that encompass Project Jackson, he said.

“We certainly anticipate a positive result for the city out of it,” Zier said.

Donohue did not return phone calls seeking comment at his home in the River Club neighborhood.

If the suit blocks the deal with the Augusta GreenJackets, Glover said the development would be forced to go in a different direction.

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Riverman1
83647
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Riverman1 06/18/14 - 11:11 pm
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ASU in Lake Olmstead Stadium

Speaking of the N. Augusta hosting a Clemson-USC game, let's hope ASU gets Lake Olmstead Stadium and can bring in a big name school for a game as a way to celebrate their "new" stadium. With that stadium ASU should be able to get some good recruits. This is a whole other game.

JRC2024
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JRC2024 06/18/14 - 11:26 pm
4
1
I wonder if George will be at

I wonder if George will be at the first game in the new stadium hooting and hollering and disterbing the neighbors with all the noise or will someone from Richmond County write such a worthless letter.

geecheeriverman
2406
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geecheeriverman 06/19/14 - 04:42 am
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JRC2024

What did you say? I do not understand.

raul
4841
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raul 06/19/14 - 06:06 am
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@JRC2024.

Who's George?

Riverman1
83647
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Riverman1 06/19/14 - 08:10 am
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JRC, hahaha. George was the

JRC, hahaha. George was the N. Augusta guy who wrote the letter to the Chronicle yesterday complaining about noise at the concert in Augusta.

Little Lamb
45869
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Little Lamb 06/19/14 - 08:34 am
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Link

Here's the link to George's letter:

George

Little Lamb
45869
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Little Lamb 06/19/14 - 08:41 am
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Original Intent

When the lawmakers created these tax incentive deals, they were intended for developers to improve actual blighted areas in return for lower taxes, interest-free loans, and other goodies. When the developers said, “No thanks,” then the governmental development authorities started monkeying with the deals and started awarding the sweetheart deals for developers to build projects in desirable areas. I guess they used the "rising tide lifts all boats" justification.

Do you know where the first Tax Allocation District was in Richmond County? It was at the Village at Riverwalk. They had to state with a straight face that that parcel of land was "blighted" to make the sweetheart tax deals legal.

Same thing with the Tax Increment Financing on the brick pond property in North Augusta.

It's crooked, but, hey, everybody does it and no one gets in trouble (except for the poor taxpayers have to make up the difference for lost tax revenue).

Young Fred
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Young Fred 06/19/14 - 11:30 am
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Generally

I'm against tax increases because, gov't at its best is inefficient stewards of other peoples money. At its worse, gov't is malfeasant.

BUT, in theory, I like Project Jackson!

My job requires that I travel around the southeast and southwest. I've seen many cities/towns that have spent money on "prettying-up" or rejuvenating aesthetics, and adding entertainment venues that have paid big dividends. Big, big dividends.

It's a proven psychological fact that more people pay more attention, and tend to remember attractive people over others, even if the "others" have more substance in what they have to say. Yes I know, it's sad, but it's also a fact.

The same holds true for places.

A good looking town, with good looking places to spend your leisure time, tends to attract more people. If time and effort is spent merely maintaining the status quo, then all you'll ever do is maintain the status quo. This inevitably means stagnation. I think we've all seen examples of both.

I did say I supported PJ in theory. As LL points out, the legality of the situation is being stretched. NA citizens would have been better served if this whole deal was done on an upfront, transparent basis. No matter what I may wish for, if the majority of citizens had voted for stagnation, that's their right, as citizens!

Butterman
3680
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Butterman 06/19/14 - 11:34 am
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I support
Unpublished

about 80% of project jackson... The Privately developed portion. Like Mr Donohue, I do not believe the ballpark should qualify for TIF financing. I think if you took the ballpark out, you would find few if anyone opposing Project Jackson

Young Fred
17448
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Young Fred 06/19/14 - 11:45 am
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Ya but.

Butterman, the ball park is the butter on the bread, the icing on the cake. Dry bread or cake don't attract as much!

Businesses and tenants are more likely to lease a place that overlooks a river and a stadium. Don't you believe that businesses like Medac, Inc. are more likely to lease/buy/build in the area if we have butter and icing?

Butterman
3680
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Butterman 06/19/14 - 01:13 pm
2
1
I doubt
Unpublished

a ballpark had anything to do with Medac's decision.. In fact, I think the area is more attractive to development without the stadium. It will only create noise and parking hassles for businesses that want to locate in Project Jackson. The team owners are just trying to piggy back on a private development and get the taxpayers to finance them a ballpark. Study after study has shown that stadiums have little positive economic impact on the areas around where they are located. People going to a ballgame are not inclined to eat at nearby trendy restaurants or shop at some boutique store. They park near the stadium get a hot dog and beer and watch the game and then go home. Its actually more of a hassle for peopel who would want to go into that area to dine out. Plus, I for one would not want to buy a home or condo or rent an apartment smack dab next to a baseball stadium with the bright lights and noise.

triscuit
3078
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triscuit 06/19/14 - 02:11 pm
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butterman, you would not want

butterman, you would not want to live near it and I am sure those property owners who ponied up a half mil $$ to have homes in Hammonds Ferry, River Club, etc. don't want to hear the noise either.

t3bledsoe
14290
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t3bledsoe 06/19/14 - 02:30 pm
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Young Fred @ 11:30

"I did say I supported PJ in theory. As LL points out, the legality of the situation is being stretched. NA citizens would have been better served if this whole deal was done on an upfront, transparent basis. No matter what I may wish for, if the majority of citizens had voted for stagnation, that's their right, as citizens!"

As a NA resident for over 24 years, I value your opinions, ESPECIALLY THE PARAGRAPH ABOVE!! I hope this law suet will go against THE TOO, TOO POWERFUL LOCAL GOVERNMENTS in Aiken county!!!!

t3bledsoe
14290
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t3bledsoe 06/19/14 - 02:32 pm
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triscuit @ 2:11

"butterman, you would not want to live near it and I am sure those property owners who ponied up a half mil $$ to have homes in Hammonds Ferry, River Club, etc. don't want to hear the noise either."

I could not have said it ANY BETTER!!

Young Fred
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Young Fred 06/19/14 - 02:34 pm
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I tend to disagree...

..but agree on some points. I think a ball park did have "something" to do with their decision. It's part of a package. It may, or may not have been a deal breaker, but I believe it most definitely was a factor.

Yes, yes, parking, noise, and traffic is a factor, as it is in any venue. Does the people of Augusta wish the Masters was gone because of the inconvenience? What about the people of Darlington or Indianapolis?

How about the people that host the Charlotte Knights? A semi-pro team who built their stadium outside of Charlotte proper?

Excuse me, but "noise and parking" are not the concern of small business owners in the area. Their concern is "how can we capitalize"!

Study after study that is sighted rarely takes into effect the total picture. They tend to be more focused on immediate anecdotal evidence than the long term. How does one measure a family that decides to move closer to a venue 10 years after its been built?

Buy a hotdog and go home? Crap, I buy a hotdog, beer, peanuts and stop either on my way in or way out at a local restaurant

I personally would love a home overlooking the river, with a view to the stadium! Man, give me a big porch, and a grill, a couple pair of binoculars, a comfortable couch, shoot - I'd be in hog-heaven.

Think outside of the box. Look at other suburbs around the country. Look at Charlotte and Greenville's suburbs. There is absolutely no reason we can't compete.

Yes, it's a given, some people will be inconvenienced at certain times. That's part of the price.

If you can't go to the local Seven-Eleven at 10:30, without having to wait on traffic, because the local game is just letting out, well that's a small price to pay.

t3bledsoe
14290
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t3bledsoe 06/19/14 - 02:36 pm
1
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Butterman @ 11:34

"about 80% of project jackson... The Privately developed portion. Like Mr Donohue, I do not believe the ballpark should qualify for TIF financing. I think if you took the ballpark out, you would find few if anyone opposing Project Jackson"

I wish the powers-that-be would understand your way of thinking!

Young Fred
17448
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Young Fred 06/19/14 - 03:05 pm
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t3said:

"As a NA resident for over 24 years, I value your opinions, ESPECIALLY THE PARAGRAPH ABOVE!! I hope this law suet will go against THE TOO, TOO POWERFUL LOCAL GOVERNMENTS in Aiken county!!!!"

Well, I hope the people of the area recognizes the potential they're faced with. I've seen first hand what certain areas can do when the people embrace growth. Man, I ain't kidding, observe a stagnant gov't with no vision versus a government that's trying to grow the city.

There is no comparison! The people that look forward reap the benefits.

Augusta, GA has too much going on to allow small time pretenders to take advantage of "Augusta" s name!

Why? Why would we - (I say as a CSRA resident) allow others to enrich themselves off of the Augusta name?

Do we really want to project to the world that we're short-term gimmee gimmee type of people?

Butterman
3680
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Butterman 06/19/14 - 03:15 pm
1
1
stadiums
Unpublished

are poor investments for generating new business and economic activity. That's a fact and study after study proves it. Read The Zimbalist study among others for more details. Also this expansion of Hammonds Ferry (now being called Project Jackson) has been in the planning stages for years... The private aspects of this devt will happen with or without a ballpark. In fact just a little more than a year ago the Greenjackets team owners were still angling for the Golf and Gardens location.. it wasn't until Azziz got control of that property that they began shopping for new locations. This ballpark was tacked on at the last minute to an otherwise great idea. The new team owners (a consortium whose members are secret) are piggybacking on this private devt and trying to get Aiken County taxpayers to pay for their stadium by claiming all of Project Jackson hinges on their stadium. That is Horse Hockey if I ever smelled it. Again, if the team owners want to qualify for TIF financing under SC law let them build in a part of the county that is truly blighted.. not prime riverfront realestate sandwiched between $million plus homes. The private portions of Project jackson will proceed regardless of teh ballpark as they have been in the planning stages long before the ballpark was ever thrown into the mix.

Young Fred
17448
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Young Fred 06/19/14 - 05:27 pm
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Buttermn

the "Zimbalist study" is a tool that we should use.

A tool that should be taken in context.

Zimbalist had a specific belief from which he came (kind of a statist belief). That's not to say we should discount his results, only that we should educate ourselves as to "where" he's coming from.

Nor should you believe my assertion that nice-looking places attract people.

Only that those who unilaterally declare "it's bad," aren't looking at the total picture, regardless of the Zman.

Little Lamb
45869
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Little Lamb 06/19/14 - 09:50 pm
0
0
Stadium Noise

How many home games does a minor league baseball team play a year? 50? 60?

The rest of the time the stadium will sit cold and dark.

Isn't there a better use for the land?

Riverman1
83647
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Riverman1 06/19/14 - 10:21 pm
0
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Concrete Desert Islands

LL's last comment is true. Stadiums are concrete desert islands most of the time. Possibly they will have more big college games, concerts and so on. Also more fans will attend games there than the current stadium. It's just such a pleasant location. At the Lake you have to drive through the housing project next to the stadium. As I've said all along, once I heard about the SC ownership, I knew it was a done deal. This suit will go nowhere.

curly123053
4638
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curly123053 06/20/14 - 08:41 am
0
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Make It Work

All you need to do is take a look at the West End Stadium built in Greenville for their SAL team. That area is flourishing like never before and has been a very positive addition to the area around the stadium. The same can happen for the PJ area if things are done right. I am pretty certain the stadium is coming to PJ, so instead of fighting it anymore after this suit is settled the people need to come together and offer constructive advice to help the city guide this project in a way that would truly benefit the area. That is what happened when the stadium was built for the Greenville Drive.

curly123053
4638
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curly123053 06/20/14 - 08:47 am
0
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Make It Work

Another vision I had when PJ was first mentioned was for someone to employ "water taxis" between Augusta and PJ to transport patrons to the restaurants in Augusta from PJ. Money can be made off this deal if people put their minds to use. The PJ complex could still benefit the Augusta waterfront if people take advantage of the opportunities.

Riverman1
83647
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Riverman1 06/20/14 - 11:32 am
0
0
Don't Know About That Curly

Curly, that's like the pedestrian bridge that was suggested. The people of North Augusta wanted no part of it. If a water taxi is started N. Augusta will probably outfit mini destroyers to patrol and intercept.

shamrock
506
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shamrock 06/20/14 - 12:59 pm
0
0
North Augusta GreenJackets

I'm curious ... the Augusta GreenJackets had to clear that name with the Augusta National. Is the mighty golf course going to allow the name to cross the River??

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