It’s becoming clearer by the day, Lake Wylie is getting its new sports park. Lake Wylie property owners also may be getting a slight deal.
“It’s coming in at less than advertised,” York County Finance Director Kevin Madden told the county’s hospitality tax advisory committee Tuesday.
Last fall, Lake Wylie voters approved a new recreation tax district, spurred mainly by a group of citizens pushing it as means of raising money for a new sports complex. The plan was for baseball and multipurpose fields, trails, a dog park, playground and a variety of other amenities on county-owned land along Crowders Creek.
Voters approved the tax district to levy up to 10 mills. Organizers last summer and fall estimated they wouldn’t need that full amount, but that the district could build the park by charging $20 per $100,000 of home value or $30 per $100,000 of commercial property value.
Madden said the figure county staff is looking at now is 4.5 mills. That equates to $18 for residential and $27 for commercial, both per every $100,000 of assessed value.
An up to 10-year loan for construction is likely, to be aid back by tax district revenue. The project also has $2.45 million from the hospitality tax. That tax is charged on prepared food and drink sold in unincorporated parts of the county. Money has to go to tourism-generating projects.
The recreation tax needs to generate about $7 million for the new park. Subsequent tax revenue would pay for operations. The county can change the millage rate as needed. One reason it came in at slightly less than projected, and why it could decrease further, is community growth. As more people and businesses arrive in Lake Wylie, the tax burden is spread out.
Tom Smith, former Council and hospitality tax committee member representing Lake Wylie, was one of many residents pushing for the park last fall. The months it took to finalize the tax district means money won’t arrive until the coming fiscal year. Smith said the county had questions to consider, like whether a citizen group formed by the recreation tax would be an assisting committee or a more authoritative board.
County control of the district, with input from the five-member citizen group still to be formed, can work, he said.
“It’ll be a true partnership,” Smith said.
For years following the creation of a hospitality tax in York County, there was concern in Lake Wylie that its restaurants were paying far more than they were getting back through capital investments. Then $1 million from the fund went to the aquatic center, also along Crowders Creek, proposed by the Clover School District and Upper Palmetto YMCA. Now there’s the park, which in combination will completely reshape activity in Lake Wylie, Smith said.
“Don’t think that it’s gone unnoticed,” Smith said.
Since the hospitality tax began in 2007, the number of Lake Wylie restaurants has tripled. An estimated $120 million in restaurant revenue has been generated.
The recreation tax district was a county requirement for getting the hospitality tax money for the park. Without it, park planners tried scaling back plans for the park in search of funding options. With the recreation and hospitality tax money, they can build out the full plan and do it sooner.
“The whole thing,” Smith said. “Cut the lights on and it’s ready to go.”
Construction isn’t likely to begin until next year. The county already has precedent for how well the park might generate tourism dollars through tournament play, as hospitality tax money went to the Comporium Athletic Park in Fort Mill. Still new, the park already has been a success, Smith said.
“There are certain demographics you’ll hit in Lake Wylie and Fort Mill that you just won’t get anywhere,” he said.