One vote can lead to change, but a lone mechanic’s vote could make a $4.5 million difference for the Beach Co.
Christian Drum, who on his Facebook page calls himself a “grease monkey” working at a local vehicle service facility, is the only person living on the Beach Co.’s Kiawah River Plantation, company President John Darby confirmed this week.
Drum will be the only one to vote in an election to decide if the company can establish its own public service district to provide fire and sewer services to the planned, upscale development on the southern end of Johns Island.
If the service district is approved, its commission likely would agree to giving up $4.5 million in future tax revenue to pay for improvements to the 2,000-acre property, which would include improved fire and sewer services.
It’s part of the Beach Co.’s strategy to sidestep local resistance to its plan to use future tax dollars to pay for improvements to the private property.
Developers usually pay for those things themselves, but the Beach Co. has asked Charleston County to approve a special tax district to pay for them with future tax revenue the development will bring in.
The Beach Co. launched the plan to form its own public service district after the St. Johns Fire District Commission voted not to give up future tax dollars.
The Fire District isn’t the only group being asked to give up future revenue. The Beach Co.’s $82 million plan includes the Charleston County School District forgoing $63 million, Charleston County giving up $8.9 million, and the county’s Park and Recreation Commission giving up $5.2 million. A school board committee is studying the impact the TIF would have on the school district.
Kevin O’Neill, vice president of Beach Development, said the company still is considering moving forward with the public service district, but a date for the election has not yet been set.
Drum declined to comment on the unusual position in which he finds himself when asked by a reporter Wednesday at his workplace. When Drum was told that Darby confirmed he lived on the property, he said he preferred that his name not appear in the newspaper. But, he said, “I guess there’s no way around that now.”
Drum keeps an eye on the property and chases away trespassers. He wouldn’t say whether he was inclined to vote in favor of the Beach Co.
Darby has said the company needs a financial break to get the development off the ground. The investment will benefit the county, he said, because it will bring in jobs.