Project Jackson riverfront spiel short on details

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Why doesn’t anyone from the city of North Augusta, S.C., seem to tell the whole story? Perhaps because they don’t want you to hear it.

Let’s take their much-coveted Project Jackson, a.k.a. Pro-Jack, the much-talked-about riverfront development proposal. All the development in there could be done without any stadium or parking deck. A hotel was planned in that area since 1996. The rest of it is retail, apartments and townhouses – all doable without a stadium or parking deck.

THOSE DWELLINGS probably are even more marketable if they are not near a stadium. No one says, “Gosh, I would have built some houses and apartments, but I just couldn’t find a baseball stadium to build next to.”

Why don’t they ever seem to tell you there is an existing development agreement? Maybe because they want you to think it is swampland, and you either take the ball field or it sits there fallow. That, of course, isn’t true.

And when city officials finally are dragged kicking and screaming to admit there is an agreement, they say, “Aw, shucks, that’s not guaranteed,” or, “The developer is only required to do the bare minimum.” Really? Car dealers make money selling cars; the more they sell, the more they make. Developers make money selling improved property; the more they sell, the more they make. Why would a developer sit on waterfront property and only sell the bare minimum?

The existing development agreement just signed in January 2013 would continue the themes, style and look of the current Hammond’s Ferry. All the taxes would go to the schools to educate children, not to build a stadium and parking lot. And no property would be taken off the tax rolls. Pro-Jack crams an architecturally ugly structure in a small space, ruins the brick ponds, disrupts the residential feel of the area and permanently removes eight acres from the tax rolls.

Recently city officials started claiming that in the first year after completion, Pro-Jack will generate $300,000 in tax revenue for the schools. Notice they don’t immediately show you the math. And until they do, don’t believe them, because it’s not true. Anyone making that revenue claim does not understand school taxes, or if they do, they are distorting the truth.

The city has presented more than 15 spreadsheets to the school board. None of them showed the $300,000 because it isn’t there. Furthermore, more money would be available to the schools if you were to build the hotel, houses and apartments without the stadium, or just build the original development agreement.

BY THE WAY, those apartments will place an education burden on the school system because of the children possibly living there – but no operational money will flow to the schools, because it will be diverted to the stadium and the parking deck.

If this is such a great idea, let’s sink our money in it. The city does not need school money if it floats a nine-mill bond levy. That’s $36 a year on a $100,000 home. What are they afraid of? If the city is reaping all these benefits, the citizens of the city should fund it. Put it on the ballot in the form of a bond levy. Campaign for it. They seem afraid to do that. They would rather arm-twist the school board than risk an election. That tells you they don’t think they have the votes.

Take this to the voters and let’s settle it!

(The writer is president of the River Club Homeowners Association in North Augusta.)

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 06/02/13 - 08:36 am
Good Analysis

Thanks for the perspective, Mr. Donohue. I have been suspect of the deal from the beginning. The school board should speak out loud and clear that it will not participate in the tax incentive district! Let the private developers build their hotel and their retail center. Let the ball club build their own stadium. Taxpayers do not need to get into stadium construction for fat cat ball team owners.

As far as convention center and parking deck — Augusta taxpayers already beat you to it, and we are suffering for it. You do not need competing convention centers so close together unless the free market wants it. Taxpayer-built convention centers and parking decks are not free market.

soapy_725 06/02/13 - 10:22 am
Excellent LTE

If this project had a hope of being profitable, even being in the black, private money would be no problem. Government entertainment is a no win situation for taxpayers.

Riverman1 06/02/13 - 11:10 am
Pro Stadium Column

I hope in the future there is a column by the proponents to hear the other side.

Beattybugs 06/02/13 - 09:36 pm
That's pretty much ALL we've heard !

Dear Riverman1,

North Augusta City Council meetings, Aiken City Council meetings, Aiken County School Board meetings, local newspapers and the media have all given significantly more time to the proponents of Pro- Jack than the opponents ever dreamed of having.

And, by the way, we don't have a table spilling over with attorneys, accountants and city planners billing at $300 per hour to argue for us.

Corporate welfare - - google it.

dstewartsr 06/02/13 - 10:55 pm
Mr. Donohue

... simply nailed it. Bottom line, across the country, taxpayers are being given the bill for albino elephants, and the CSRA is right in there trying to sell a howdah as well. If any of these ideas on either side of the river were actually fiscally sound, there would be investors lined up to put their money someplace that will bring more than 2%.

Beattybugs 06/03/13 - 01:55 pm
R.I.P. Hammond's Ferry

We will surely miss those those leisurely drives through your quaint streets.
So sad that they are soon to be replaced by bumper to bumper cars filled with gawkers on their way to or from a ball game.
We'll speak fondly of the good old days when we could walk, drive or bicycle through your charming neighborhood and not have to worry about honking horns, or getting rear ended.

TruthJusticeFaithHope 08/11/13 - 07:35 pm
Until Citizens Get To Vote....

Dear Aiken County School Board: Please Vote NO to Project Jackson, please... vote NO until all citizens get to vote on this...
Project Jackson is a bad plan; it is a questionably legal TIF strategy; the baseball team is not signed to an agreement or contract; it will be an ugly growth on the beautiful Savannah River bank, it will be an environmental nightmare... Project Jackson has been shoved down resident's throats with no public input, and it smells dirty.
At minimum, North Augusta, and Aiken County Citizens should have a voice... let us vote !
Until then.... Please ask the Aiken Co. School Board to vote NO !
Aiken County School Board:
Mrs. Rosemary English
896 Lincoln Avenue N.W.
Aiken, SC 29801
(803) 648-1126

Mr. Ray Fleming
1006 Roble Drive
North Augusta, SC 29841
(803) 279-5001

Mr. Tad Barber
334 Walker Avenue
Aiken, SC 29801
(803) 641-1042

Mr. Keith Liner
113 Knotty Pine Drive
North Augusta, SC 29841
(803) 279-0238

Mr. Richard Hazen
124 Waters Edge Drive
Aiken, SC 29803
(803) 642-6629

Mr. Dwight Smith
262 Hillman Street
Warrenville, SC 29851
(803) 663-1954

Mr. John Wesley Hightower
P.O. Box 985
Bath, SC 29816
Tel: (803) 593-4684 or (803) 593-2323
Fax: (803) 593-2435

Mr. Levi Green
2986 Silver Bluff Road
Aiken, SC 29803
(803) 652-7462

Mr. Ronnie West
894 Seivern Road
Wagener, SC 29164

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