No vote on TIF, no problem

The Beach Company says development plans for its Kiawah River Plantation will go forward, despite Charleston County Council’s recent unanimous decision to deny tax increment financing (TIF) for the project.

Grace Beahm

Anyone concerned that the rejection of a taxpayer-funded incentive for Kiawah River Plantation might threaten its development can now breathe easy.

A spokesman for The Beach Company says development plans will go forward, despite Charleston County Council’s recent unanimous decision to deny tax increment financing (TIF) for the project.

In comments to the Charleston Regional Business Journal, Beach Company President and CEO John Darby said, “We’ve got good zoning on the property. It is zoned for more than 1,000 units, commercial space, a hotel and workforce housing. The type of homebuyer may change, and those are things we will evaluate over the next couple years.”

Mr. Darby told the Journal that planned improvements of a public nature — for example, to an adjacent county park — could be eliminated with the rejection of the TIF proposal.

That may be a reasonable trade-off considering that the TIF would have diverted $82 million in tax revenue to help fund infrastructure normally paid for by developers.

That infrastructure would have included sewerage that could have encouraged further development on rural Johns Island, outside KRP’s boundary.

Mr. Darby’s affirmation of his company’s continued plans for the property might cause readers to wonder whether all the long-drawn-out discussion on the TIF was really necessary. The short answer would be: No.

There’s still another question, though. If the TIF were not really essential for the property’s development, why did county officials spend all that time assisting in its preparation — particularly since council hadn’t endorsed the idea?

At the recent Finance Committee meeting, council member Colleen Condon said 1,000 hours were spent on the proposal by county employees.

Councilman Joe Qualey calls it “a colossal waste of time.”

And money, we’d add. You can bet those weren’t low-level county employees who worked on the TIF plan.

The Beach Company is the pre-eminent Charleston development company, with a long track record of successful projects. The company’s ability to undertake the Kiawah River project without the assistance of a TIF should have been evident at the outset.

By unanimously rejecting a TIF for that upscale plan, County Council sent an important message to other prospective resort developers eyeing taxpayer support for similar projects elsewhere in rural Charleston County:

You need not apply.