YORK — As the Charlotte Knights prepare to leave their Fort Mill-area baseball stadium after next season, York County staff members have formed a committee to explore what might become of the 33 acres now home to a parking lot and 10,000-seat stadium.
County Manager Jim Baker said the six-member committee will meet Sept. 27 for a tour of the stadium and subsequent public meetings will take place over the next year and a half.
Baker said the committee will make recommendations to the County Council on what could be done with the stadium property.
Council member David Bowman from District One, where the stadium is located will serve on the committee alongside Council Chairman Britt Blackwell and others on county staff and in the business community.
If elected to the county council Nov. 6, Fort Mill school board member Michael Johnson would take over Bowmans seat on the Knights Stadium panel, Baker said. Johnson ran unopposed in the June Republican primary for the council seat and only a majority win through write-in votes would dash his hopes for office.
After the Knights announced in 2007 they would return to Charlotte to play in a new downtown stadium, the county received some interest from developers about the property. The Knights, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, have been leasing the land from York County for $1 a year for the past 24 years.
As part of the lease terms, the team shares revenue from the parking lot with the county. The lease requires the Knights to double their parking revenue contribution to the county in their final year in Fort Mill which will be about $225,000 in 2013.
In June, Baker said the county intends to use some of that parking revenue to determine what to do with the property after the baseball team leaves.
Public defenders office
In other meeting business, the council voted unanimously to create another entry level attorney position for the circuit courts public defenders office. The attorneys salary will be paid for through $100,356 in new funding from the state Legislature, said Harry Dest, a public defender for the 16th Circuit.
More than $67,000 of that total is a recurring budget appropriation, Dest said, for defense of criminal domestic violence cases. The remaining part comes from increased funding because of growth in the county determined by updated census data from 2010.
Bowman and Blackwell voiced concern at the meeting that if that state funding goes away, it could put a new burden on local taxpayers.
"I don't think there's any county that's more supportive of the public defender's office than York County," Dest said. "If I felt that the money would not be there next year, I would not be before you today."
Blackwell added that the public defenders reputation in York County makes it easy to support funding for more staff and supporting their work. Public defenders handle 76 percent of criminal cases in York County, Dest said.
Lake Wylie ordinance
The council also passed through first reading an ordinance amendment to restrict the color and design of business signs and the color of commercial buildings in parts of the Lake Wylie area.
Bruce Henderson, whose district includes the Lake Wylie area, said the council needs to consider regulation when the color or design of a business affects other business ability to operate successfully or negatively impacts the value of homes nearby.
Council member Eric Winstead said the council would be taking the first step down a long, dark road if it started regulating those features based on one person or a group of peoples opinion. Winstead was the only dissenting vote on the ordinance amendments first reading.
Building features that are effective in grabbing attention is one way businesses survive, Winstead said.
If people in Lake Wylie are taking note of businesses that are painted unusual colors, he said, then the building is doing its job.
If you dont like it, dont look at it.
Anna Douglas 803-329-4068