Last chance to weigh in on tower

County Council to hold final public hearing on MorningStar Ministries' plans for Heritage USA property

MorningStar Ministries is one vote away from moving forward on plans to convert the unfinished 20-story tower into an active-adult community.

The former Heritage USA Tower was supposed to be demolished early this year. Now, York County is on the verge of signing off on the ministry's plans for its development. The tower has sat in stages of decomposition since Jim Bakker left Praise the Lord Ministries in disgrace in 1988.

Monday marks the last time citizens can weigh in on the ministry's plans to expand it on three sides to house those 55 and older.

After a final public hearing, the council will make the decision on development plans and an agreement that outlines funding and building timelines for the tower. If these aren't met, it calls for the tower's demolition.

Councilman Joe Cox opposed these plans at the last council meeting and questioned ways to generate tax revenue from the tax-exempt ministry.

"There's nothing in the Bible about a 'life lease' as a way to make money," Cox said last week. "I see it as legalized tax evasion."

He's concerned that other areas of the county will have to pay more in taxes to provide emergency and other services to residents of the tower and proposed rental units on the 52-acre ministry property.

"I think we're going to have a problem down the road," Cox said. "It seems like something on this site should generate taxes."

While Cox said he won't vote for the ministry's plans, Councilman Paul Lindemann, who represents the area, continues to support the development.

The plans will be good for the ministry, the communities around it and the county, Lindemann said.

Only a couple of Fort Mill residents spoke in opposition during the last public hearing -- mostly about the impact on the roads. Maintaining the private roads in the Regent Park area or improving them enough to be inherited by the county could be a factor in the final decision.

The development agreement calls for the ministry to pay "its fair share" if some of those roads are adopted in the county system. York County Planing Director Susan Britt said that cost is based on a traffic-impact analysis.

WHAT: The final public hearing on development of the MorningStar Ministries tower at the former Heritage USA

WHEN: 6 p.m. Monday, during the York County Council meeting

WHERE: Agricultural Building in York