Share your opinion with leaders on controversial Project Jackson

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Vote on plan for stadium nears.” That was the headline of an article in the July 21 Augusta FYI. Also in The Augusta Chronicle’s July 21 Opinion section was an article by North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones titled “Controversial Project Jackson cries out for different perspective.”

I thought it was time to check out the position I would like to take on this issue. I gathered as many articles on this subject that I could. Most articles are written by staff writers from area newspapers. Citizen comments appear mostly to be by North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones (pro) and River Club Homeowners Association President Steve Donohue (con).

WHAT IS Project Jackson? The original plan was a $150 million mixed-use development on North Augusta’s riverfront with a 225-room hotel/resort; a 20,000-square-foot convention center; structured parking for 900 cars; a $28 million city-owned sports and entertainment facility (a possible new home for the Augusta GreenJackets baseball team); restaurants and retail area of about 30,000 square feet; 40,000 square feet of office space; 225 luxury apartments; and 75 townhomes. Parts of this original plan have been slightly revised.

I drove down there, walked around and tried to envision all of this being built on what I have been told is about 38 acres. I invite all residents of North Augusta and Aiken County to do the same. Pay particular attention to road access. Ask yourself if you are going to drive here to a ball game or dinner or anything else. Do you think anyone from Augusta or Richmond County will drive there for a night at the ball park?

AS I WALKED this property, thinking about all that was to be crammed into this space, I said to myself: This makes no sense! “If you build it, they will come” only works in the movies!

In Mayor Jones’ July 21 column, he stated: “A private landowner in North Augusta reached out to the Augusta GreenJackets minor-league baseball team to discuss a move to North Augusta. While the land would have been a great place for a stadium (it was not on the riverfront), it simply could not attract the surrounding business needed to pay for the public investment.”

Are you kidding me? Not on the riverfront? As if “the riverfront” of the Savannah River really draws people. The city of Augusta has been trying to revitalize its downtown and riverfront for years. How’s that been working out for them?

What draws people is convenient access, and this parcel proposed for Project Jackson has terrible access! If the private land the mayor alluded to is up around exits 5 and 6 of Interstate 20, he should jump on it! One only needs to look at the I-20 corridor over the past 20 years to see what areas of Richmond and Columbia counties have grown the most.

MAYOR JONES says that “it simply could not attract the surrounding business needed to pay for the public investment.” Maybe he didn’t see the sign announcing the new Wal-Mart at U.S. Highway 25 and Walnut Lane. I may be off the mark not knowing exactly where this property is. I’m just saying that if it has access to I-20 or I-520, it’s a better location than the isolated 38 acres projected for Project Jackson!

The (North Augusta) Star from Dec. 20, 2012, quoted Chris Schoen of Greenstone Properties in Atlanta as saying: “Greenstone is delighted to have the opportunity to work on such an exciting mixed-use waterfront development. The riverfront offers extraordinary investment appeal as a sustainable addition to both North Augusta and Augusta. The proposed public-private investment would be delivered at a quality level consistent with the original version of Hammond’s Ferry and would create a pedestrian and live-work-play environment unequalled anywhere in the Southeastern United States.”

WOW! THAT’S A pretty good spiel from a developer – but that’s what developers do! If they can’t sell their proposal, they can’t make any money! I have some friends in Atlanta and asked them if the knew of a developer named Chris Schoen. What came back truly surprised me! I was directed to an article published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on April 25 by Staff Writer Christopher Seward. The article states that Bank of America is suing two Atlanta commercial real-estate executives and their companies, demanding they hand over pricey artwork to help settle a $4.5 million debt. Makes one wonder if the North Augusta City Council has done its due diligence and knows who they are dealing with!

Aiken County Board of Education members have a critical decision to make concerning the Tax Increment Financing proposal presented by the city of North Augusta to help fund Project Jackson. Originally, the proposal called for school taxes to be deferred for 30 years. The revised version cut that to 15 years. We are all aware of the tight fiscal constraints the Aiken County school board is operating under.

I’M NOT SAYING that at times tax incentives are not warranted; I’m just saying that if this project “offers extraordinary investment,” as the developers proclaim, they should pay their full school taxes from day one!

Many years ago, when I was becoming eligible to vote, I had a conversation with my grandfather. I asked him: How do I know whom to vote for? He told me:

Keep an open mind and learn all you can about the issues.

Let the candidates know your views.

Vote for the candidate that you believe will do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons.

He was so right! After expressing our views to our elected officials, all we can hope for is that they do the right thing, at the right time and for the right reasons.

Contact your local officials and let them know what you think about Project Jackson!

(The writer – a retired North Augusta resident – is a member of the Board of Directors of the Lake & Streams Homeowners Association.)

Comments (5) Add comment
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Little Lamb
46021
Points
Little Lamb 08/11/13 - 05:23 am
1
0
Name

Even if the stadium is located in North Augusta, the team will still call itself the Augusta GreenJackets.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 08/11/13 - 11:20 am
0
0
If it will a make a profit, why public tax funds? Ben Dover
Unpublished

If it will a make a profit, why public tax funds? Ben Dover

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 08/11/13 - 11:21 am
0
0
In less than 20 yrs, you'll be asked for a new facility. Ben D.
Unpublished

In less than 20 yrs, you'll be asked for a new facility. Ben D.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 08/11/13 - 11:22 am
0
0
Entertainment is not a government function. Except ROME??
Unpublished

Entertainment is not a government function. Except ROME??

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 08/11/13 - 11:23 am
0
0
Entertain the frogs while you boil them. Adolph Hitler.
Unpublished

Entertain the frogs while you boil them. Adolph Hitler.

Beattybugs
426
Points
Beattybugs 08/11/13 - 12:59 pm
3
0
Thank you, Mr. Berg!

The Aiken County School Board carries an especially important responsibility in representing the schools of Aiken County. No one knows that better than they do.

This issue has been a drain on all other aspects of their conscientious work and I am sure they are tired of it.

Your letter is the voice of reason and I hope they have the good grace to consider everything you said before they vote on Tuesday night.

TruthJusticeFaithHope
218
Points
TruthJusticeFaithHope 08/11/13 - 04:11 pm
2
0
Vote NO ! to Project Jackson, please... Aiken Co. School Board..

Please Help Aiken County School Board to vote NO ! to Project Jackson.
It is a bad plan, it is questionably legal TIF strategy, the 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... the project 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 them 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
803-564-6016

Little Lamb
46021
Points
Little Lamb 08/11/13 - 08:58 pm
1
1
Sympathy

I sympathize with TruthJusticeFaithHope, but you can see by the paltry number of comments to this story that the citizens of Aiken County (and especially North Augusta) have given up. They now realize that the fix is in and the vote will be a mere formality.

Sad day for Aiken County when this boondoggle passes.

dabigmrfish
16
Points
dabigmrfish 08/12/13 - 05:49 pm
3
0
New Schools In North Augusta

We need some new schools in North Augusta. The High school is over 45 yrs old. How Many Students is it designed to hold? Columbia country builds new schools as needed for growth, and with one or two exceptions, none of the schools are 45 to 50 years old. Aiken county and North Augusta needs a wake up call. You want our community to grow, you want the city of North Augusta to grow, build new schools, and improve the ones we have. FIX THE SCHOOLS AND FORGET ABOUT BASEBALL and the CONVENTION CENTER until you have made North Augusta A a solid community where people would want to bring their families. Does the EPA know that Project Jackson will destroy wetlands? Maybe its time to call them and put a stop to the Project Jackson Madness.

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