Thursday’s vote by Charleston County Council to terminate plans for a tax increment financing (TIF) district for an upscale development on Johns Island should be applauded by the taxpaying public. And thanks to council’s unanimous vote, similar plans by developers should be precluded elsewhere in rural Charleston County.
Council voted 9-0 on the controversial proposal at Thursday’s meeting of the Finance Committee, which is a committee of the whole. So the vote at Tuesday’s regular County Council meeting should be a foregone conclusion.
And that would mean $82 million in tax revenue won’t be diverted to build infrastructure to assist The Beach Company in its development of Kiawah River Plantation, a resort/residential project.
That would have included $63 million in school taxes, assuming the Charleston County School Board would have gone along with the idea.
Council’s vote doesn’t mean that the tract won’t be developed. But it recognizes that the well-heeled Beach Company should be able to sustain the expense of the development on its own.
TIFs were originally permitted by the state Legislature to enable the redevelopment of blighted urban areas, and they have been used for that purpose by the three largest local municipalities.
However, the Kiawah River Plantation TIF would have been the first sponsored by Charleston County. And it surely would not have been the last, had council endorsed it.
Other developers would certainly be agreeable to using the process to build elsewhere in scenic, rural areas of the county. And council would be hard-pressed to say no, once a precedent had been established.
And since this TIF would have enabled the development of a sewage treatment system, there was the prospect of even more development on rural Johns Island.
As opponents of the KRP project were quick to point out, further development of rural Johns Island would be bound to create more demand for additional highway projects, linking to the prospective interstate loop.
The TIF proposal required the efforts of county staff over a period of many months. In retrospect, that was a questionable use of public resources.
County Council would do well to take the temperature of the taxpaying public before permitting its staff to venture into areas that are likely to create discord and controversy.