A favorable vote from the Aiken County school board and a win from the Augusta GreenJackets gave Jeff Eiseman and Agon Sports & Entertainment reason to celebrate Tuesday night.
After voting approval of Project Jackson from the Aiken County school board, all eyes now turn to the next step in the development’s process.
On the other side of the Savannah River, the GreenJackets, owned by Eiseman and the Agon investment group, moved into first place in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division with Tuesday’s win.
“After the vote, we walk out and discover the GreenJackets took sole possession of first place,” Eiseman said. “We came away pretty excited.”
The school board voted 7-2 in favor of approving its participation in financing the project Tuesday night. The board approved its part in the North Augusta Tax Incremental Financing District, which would provide funding for the development along the riverfront in North Augusta.
The next step is a vote from the Aiken County Council, which meets Tuesday. The council previously voted 4-2 against the TIF on March 6, but the project’s developers are coming back with an adjusted financing model that would be used over 30 years.
The model would allow the city to collect the tax revenue on the incremental difference between rising Aiken County property values and values frozen at 1996 levels for 30 years.
The revised plan calls for 11 percent of the financing to come from the school district, and the money would not be used to fund the construction of a baseball stadium. The district would be allowed to exit the TIF after 15 years.
“I hope everyone can look at the facts and reach a positive result,” said councilman Chuck Smith, whose district includes North Augusta. “I hope the facts guide decisions. The city bent over backwards to come back with an adjusted plan. I hope others see the benefits it provides to all. It’s real growth.”
The proposal includes a proposed baseball stadium for the GreenJackets, a 200-room resort-style hotel and conference center, numerous restaurants, office and retail space, and apartments and townhouses.
“We were very excited to take that leap forward,” Eiseman said. “It was a big first step. We’ve always said it’s a great project, and this put us in the right direction.”
Steve Donohue, the president of the River Club Homeowners Association, said the school board’s approval is not a positive step for the neighborhood or city.
“It’s the worst thing for North Augusta,” he said. “It would ruin the nature of the area, the peacefulness of the brick ponds, and it’s just unnecessary. This would have a huge impact on the area.”
Donohue said the board’s approval is also just a first step, and those who oppose the development will continue to speak out against it.