North Augusta mayor: GreenJackets plan to be changed, reintroduced

News 12 First at Five / Monday, May 13, 2013

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW) -- North Augusta is back at bat. The $150 million public-private venture that would bring the Augusta GreenJackets, a parking garage and a luxury hotel, among other things, to the North Augusta Riverfront is back on the table.

"The shopping that'll be down there, the restaurants," says Sno-Cap Drive In owner Rachel Franklin, "It's going to help all of us."

In March, the Aiken County Council voted down the tax increment financing plan that would have required half-a-million dollars a year from the county for 30 years.

"What upsets me so much about the county council and the school board is [they're] fighting in our own county," Franklin said. "You're sending your money to [Georgia]."

Now, however, the City of North Augusta is back with a new plan.

"This is not something for North Augusta. This is a great opportunity for North Augusta, and it is a game-changer for North Augusta, and it will be used by North Augusta, but this is bigger than that," said North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones.

Jones says to satisfy the Aiken County Council, property inside the TIF zone will be brought up to 2012 assessment levels. To satisfy the Aiken County School Board, its part of the TIF will only last 15 years, not 30.

He says the lost revenue will be filled with monies from a hospitality tax that should open up after the school board's 15 years are fulfilled. He says the developer will also look to build the stadium at a price slightly lower than the original $25 million estimate.

But will the changes earn North Augusta the votes it needs at both the county and school board?

"I don't know," Jones said, "I'm not one of those that are button-holding individuals and trying to coerce. We're not doing this like Washington."

But down the street at Sno-Cap, Franklin says things are looking good.

"Anybody that loves history or heritage that has any pride in this town at all should be grateful that these people are coming in and putting us where we should have been 100 years ago," she said.

On Saturday, several members of the Aiken County Council were transported by bus to Greenville to watch a baseball game there. The North Augusta City Council hosted County Councilman Willar Hightower, Councilman Chuck Smith and County Council Chairman Ronnie Young. Jones says North Augusta wants to mirror what Greenville has done. He says the owner of the Greenville Drive minor league baseball team told him that the stadium built only years ago has revitalized a section of downtown Greenville.

Jones says on this fact-finding mission that he learned that crime shouldn't be a problem. He says light pollution and noise problems shouldn't be problematic, either.

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