York Co. Council hesitates on expanding tax district for Knowledge Park

08/18/2014 10:36 PM

08/19/2014 7:14 AM

The York County Council expressed some reservations Monday over revising a downtown tax district seen as a key financial aspect of Rock Hill’s Knowledge Park.

The city and the Knowledge Park Leadership Group asked the council to revise a special tax district established in 2004 to assist redevelopment of the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. site, commonly called the Bleachery.

The city and the leadership group of businessmen backing the development want to increase the amount of money the city could borrow to $56 million, from $40 million, to build public improvements and reset the time period for when the bonds would be repaid. Property along West Main and West Black streets would be added to the district.

The request comes as the city is working with a master developer on a multimillion-dollar project that would turn the former textile site into a high-tech, urban business park with offices, residences, retail, restaurants and other commercial space.

The county and the Rock Hill school district must agree to the changes, as well as forgoing any additional tax revenue until 2039 that would result from new development. The city would use the new tax revenue to finance public improvements at the site.

The County Council took no formal action Monday night, asking staff to review the changes. Revising the district would require each party to approve a new inter-governmental agreement.

Council Chairman Britt Blackwell and councilman Joe Cox said they would probably support the changes but were concerned about forgoing the increased tax revenue for 25 years. Blackwell asked if the time period could be revised to 20 years.

Councilman Bump Roddey said he, too, will probably support the changes but asked if there could be a way to ensure that local contractors are used on the construction and renovation projects.

Councilman Bruce Henderson said the information provided by the city had too many “ifs.” Henderson wanted to know what would happen if the project “goes sour in the near future.” He wanted to know what the city would request then.

“I want to see something more solid,” he said.

In other action, county staff said more than $7 million is needed to complete renovation of the York County Courthouse in York.

Renovations started seven years ago with a budget of $5.5 million. The county has spent $1.3 million on abating lead paint, asbestos and mold. About $4 million remains in the budget. A recent estimate by the second architect the county has hired for the project put renovation costs at $8.18 million and furniture and fixtures at $3 million.

County staff proposed studying other options for courthouse space. The civil court could move to the Moss Justice Center in York while the probate and master in equity court, plus staff, could move to new administrative offices the county wants to build.

The council on Monday asked staff to provide cost estimates for that alternative and other possible options.

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