Stadium plan a boon to Fort Mill schools

joverman@fortmilltimes.comMay 2, 2013 

— Plans for the development of property surrounding Knights Stadium – and possibly the stadium itself – are “a win” for the Fort Mill school district, York County Councilman Michael Johnson says.

“Certainly the property will bring in additional tax revenue for the school district,” Johnson said. “It will benefit the county and the school district. It will certainly have a positive impact on the school district, because one of our problems is that our residential versus commercial development is out of proportion.

“It has been 60 percent residential versus 40 percent commercial and this entire development is going in and there is hardly a single house.”

Johnson represents much of unincorporated Fort Mill, including the stadium property, on the County Council.

Cato Corp., a Charlotte-based apparel retailer, plans to develop 256 acres surrounding Knights Stadium. It recently bought the property for $7 million and is working with the County Council to buy the 32-acre stadium site off Gold Hill Road for $844,000, to expand its initial development plan.

Last week, the council gave its initial approval to selling Knights Stadium to Cato.

The council also approved an incentive package that would reduce future property taxes on a $36 million, 400,000-square foot warehouse Cato plans to build that would bring 130 jobs to the county. The fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement would offer the company a 43 percent reduction in property tax liability over a 30-year period.

Long term plans for the development include office buildings along Interstate 77. Cato says it plans to invest about $450 million and create 7,000 jobs on the site over 10 years.

“We are in dire need of developed property along the interstate to compete with Charlotte for Class A office space,” said Mark Farris, the county’s economic development director. “We have the opportunity to attract that in York County.”

More than 90 percent of the property is planned for commercial development, Johnson said.

That is “absolutely beneficial,” to the school district, said Leanne Lordo, assistant superintendent of finance and operations.

The commercial property will generate property taxes, some of which are levied for the district’s operating budget. Residential property does not pay property taxes toward the district’s operating budget because of Act 388, which shifted school funding away from residential property taxes and replaced it with a 1-cent increase in the state sales tax.

“With growth that comes in that is residential, we do not receive any operating tax millage on that development like we do commercial development,” Lordo said. “With this development, we would increase our commercial tax base.”

Residential development continues to be on the upswing in the Fort Mill area. A potential 1,000-home subdivision in the Whites Road area is currently before the town Planning Commission.

While residential development is growing, Farris said, it’s important for commercial development to keep pace.

“We have to have a balance,” he said. “We have to have an ever-increasing amount of commercial to take the brunt of the liability caused by residential.”

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