HICKS COLUMN: Kiawah River TIF goes underground
It sure seems like there's been a cease-fire in the war on Johns Island lately.
Nobody stepped up with a proposal for the Sea Island Greenway, and the politicians have gone silent on plans to subsidize the development of Kiawah River Plantation.
But don't go celebrating a truce just yet. The road and the TIF district are still out there — the fighting has just gone underground.
Officially, Charleston County is still working on details of the Beach Co.'s request for an $84.5 million tax-increment financing district to build an upscale development on the island.
Seems like that was supposed to happen a while back but, well, stuff happens. Like bad publicity and political fallout. Some County Council members believe the proponents are just waiting for the controversy to die down.
And still looking for five votes on council.
Folks opposed to the Beach Co. TIF have been busy too.
Not only are they emailing council members, they are bombarding the Charleston County School Board. That's key, as the school people would have to approve the TIF too, seeing as it would siphon an estimated $63 million from school coffers over 45 years.
One elected official — who admittedly opposes the idea — says the most interesting thing is that most of these pleas for fiscal sanity are not coming from the usual anti-everything Johns Island folks. These are people from downtown and the suburbs.
And they are putting a ton of pressure on the school board.
Some county officials had hoped the school board would stake out a position early, which would let them know whether it was worth the heat they would take for approving the controversial plan. Because if the school folks don't go for this, it's dead.
But school officials say they aren't going to touch the TIF, or say a word about it, unless the county acts first.
It's turning into a giant game of chicken.
You must enter to win
The truth is, this TIF deal is not unprecedented.
Since the Legislature, in its infinite wisdom, decided that TIFs — originally intended to redevelop blighted urban areas — could be used to build out farmlands and forests, locals have been riding the TIF bandwagon. North Charleston got a TIF for Ingleside Plantation — which also was undeveloped land.
The only difference here is that the developer actually had the gall to ask for the TIF itself. And county pols opposed to this plan worry that, if they approve it, developers will come crawling out of the woodwork.
Imagine, one of them says, what MeadWestvaco could ask for to develop its massive East Edisto project.
You can bet it would be more than $84 million.
You can also be just as sure that, like the Sea Island Greenway, the Kiawah River Plantation subsidy will be back.
Just as soon as those boys round up five votes. They did it for the I-526 completion, they can do it for this.
The only hope for folks who really hate this idea is to keep leaning on the school board.
So keep those cards and letters coming.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at blog.postandcourier.com/brians-blog.