Mt. P. voters to weigh tax increase

Approximately 250 acres on Rifle Range Road (lower left) could be developer sooner if town voters approve a referendum this fall.

Voters appear certain to decide this fall if they want to pay higher property taxes to raise money for recreation and public space.

Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to proceed with placing the question on the Nov. 3 ballot, and the referendum’s language could be finalized next week.

Town Council is expected to hold a special meeting July 21, a meeting necessary to meet the deadlines for finalizing this fall’s ballots. The proposed increase would bring in about $2.5 million per year.

The increase — if ultimately approved by the voters — would add about $80 per year to the bill on a $400,000 house and $20 to the bill on a $10,000 car.

Mayor Linda Page said she has heard criticism that the referendum’s language does not specify how the town’s arts programs and senior population would benefit. However, she added, “I’d hate for us to get bogged down in this tonight. I’d like to move it forward.”

Council members agreed. “We’re just teeing this up if we get this tonight,” Councilman Chris Nickels said. “It’s not the final framework. It’s not the final product.”

Town Administrator Eric DeMoura has said the town doesn’t have enough money to develop its 257-acre park site near Rifle Range and Hamlin roads, nor can it currently develop land donated for recreation by the developer of Carolina Park. And it’s also planning a $2 million-plus improvement to Waterfront Memorial Park that could benefit from the increased revenue. But some of those projects could be struck, too.

Resident Pat Sullivan said council members should make it clear whether the tax would end after a set number of years and how much it would cost. “Our taxpayers need to understand what they’re in for,” she said.

Four of Town Council’s eight seats also are on the Nov. 3 ballot, an off-year election that typically has a low voter turnout.

Most of Tuesday’s meeting involved Rivertowne and Dunes West residents’ pleas for the town not to approve an impact assessment for the Market at Mill Creek, a planned grocery store and shopping complex on S.C. Highway 41.

More than a dozen residents said the two-lane highway should be widened before this new development is allowed, but Town Council met in closed session to get legal advice before taking a vote. The town already faces three development-related lawsuits, and the property’s zoning allows the grocery store.

Council members voted 7-2 to approve the impact assessment, with Council members Gary Santos and Thomasena Stokes-Marshall voting no. Councilman Mark Smith said his yes vote stemmed in part from the legal advice.

In other action, Town Council unanimously agreed to give its blessing to a nonprofit that plans to raise money to shine green light on the Ravenel Bridge for a week around the next Saint Patrick’s Day.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.