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.)