News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, March 6, 2013
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW) -- The news has spread, and it doesn't look good for North Augusta.
"We knew it was going to be real close with the school board. That's where we thought the fight was,” said Mayor Lark Jones. “Then, when the county voted against doing it last night, that's put us on life support."
On Tuesday night, the financing plan to bring the Augusta GreenJackets to North Augusta, along with a hotel and restaurants, was shot down by the Aiken County Council.
Councilwoman Kathy Rawls moved to deny it, and it was seconded by Councilwoman Lawana McKenzie. Councilman Scott Singer and Willar Hightower later joined them in the vote to deny it.
Councilman Chuck Smith strongly supported the TIF. He said the jobs are needed after the announcements of furloughs and possible layoffs at Savannah River Site. Chairman Ronnie Young and Sandy Haskell joined him in support.
Newly-elected Councilman Andrew Siders abstained. He told Chairman Young that he did not know enough about the TIF to vote on it properly.
News 12 asked Mayor Jones what the next steps are.
"The overwhelming majority of the community supported it,” Jones said. “The sad thing about the whole thing is that this was a huge project for North Augusta."
Councilman Singer and others said they'd be willing to support the proposal if tax rates for property inside the TIF would be frozen at current levels. Right now, they're frozen at 1996 levels, which is when the Hammond's Ferry TIF was originally established.
Mayor Jones says City Manager Todd Glover has been in talks with the developer, Atlanta-based Greenstone Properties.
"I've talked to Todd this morning, and he's already heard from them. Basically, he called them, I think, to tell them the vote did not go as anticipated,” Jones said.
Glover told News 12 there's still no plan, and they haven't decided on anything right now.
However, Mayor Jones says the ultimate goal still stands.
"The ultimate goal is large-scale development down there, and hopefully, that will still happen,” he said.
And he says that'll happen even if a ball park isn't included.
"I would say everything's on the table. At this point, everything may be off the table,” Jones said.
In a release late Wednesday afternoon, the developer for project says he is very frustrated by the vote. He says the project is not dead and that the vote to deny is just a setback. He says the company will get with North Augusta to amend the proposal and move forward. However, the TIF would still need approval from Aiken County Council, the Aiken County Public School District and the City of North Augusta.