Let the public speak on controversial TIF plan
The Beach Company got an opportunity on Thursday to make its case for a controversial plan to create a tax increment financing (TIF) district for a resort and residential development on Johns Island. Now the public should have a chance to respond, and to do so before Charleston County Council takes a vote on it.
If that means County Council has to postpone its scheduled vote on the TIF next Thursday, then it should do so. Council could provide for a public hearing at that meeting, and take a vote later, after it has been informed by reaction to the plan.
As it is, Council Chairman Teddie Pryor has set aside only 30 minutes at the committee meeting for a single opponent to speak on the proposal.
But the opposition isn’t organized at this point. Some of those who object to the TIF don’t like the idea of supporting a major new development on Johns Island. Some are complaining as taxpayers.
And what’s the big rush? This development proposal has been around for a couple of years. In a letter to the editor last June, County Administrator Kurt Taylor noted that “Charleston County staff has spent the better part of a year studying the Kiawah River Plantation developers’ request” for the TIF.
Mr. Pryor should be willing to give council’s constituents time to mull over the presentation of John Darby, president and CEO of The Beach Company, and to offer their thoughts on the plan to County Council.
After all, the Kiawah River Plantation TIF would create a major precedent for County Council. If The Beach Company gets its TIF, there is little doubt that other developers will seek similar taxpayer support for other developments in rural Charleston County.
In this instance, $82 million in taxes would be diverted to assist the Beach Company, the county’s best-known developer, in infrastructure costs for Kiawah River Plantation.
The Charleston County School District would forego most of that funding — $63 million, according to the latest estimate. Under the initial plan by The Beach Company, the district mainly would get $350,000 in playground equipment in return.
A substantial part of that infrastructure would be a sewage treatment system for the plantation. And the presence of a treatment facility could lead to more development in an area that many would prefer to remain rural.
In a meeting with Post and Courier editors and staff this week, Mr. Darby said any decision whether to extend sewer services outside the development would be up to the board of the public service district that would be formed to serve the plantation.
At least three council members have supported a public hearing on the matter, and more raised pointed questions on the TIF proposal following Mr. Darby’s presentation.
“We shouldn’t agree to spend one dollar of taxpayer money before everybody who wants to speak gets the chance to do so,” said councilman Joe Qualey.
Last Thursday, council got to hear some grumbling among the dozens of residents who attended the meeting.
County Council should hear its constituents in detail on this issue before a vote to proceed on the TIF.
Maybe they’d find out whether anyone really thinks this is a good idea.