Final Knowledge Park deal close between Rock Hill, York County

Work to clear the site of the future Knowledge Park and make infrastructure improvements underway last year.
Work to clear the site of the future Knowledge Park and make infrastructure improvements underway last year. FILE/ANDY BURRISS

After months of back and forth between the city and the county on the future of Knowledge Park’s special tax district, a final deal may be close to completion. But it will still be at least two weeks before the York County Council holds a final vote on the issue.

Both sides of the ongoing negotiations say an agreement is close to completion, with the final language being reviewed by the city and county attorneys that will allow Rock Hill to add an additional 10 years to the life of a special tax district meant to boost infrastructure and development prospects in a previously blighted industrial area.

But county council will forgo holding a final vote on the issue at its Monday meeting, after getting the procedural ball rolling last month, because Chairman Britt Blackwell wants to hold a new public hearing on the deal once the details are publicly available.

“We want to allow the public a chance to review it since so many people at the last one said, ‘You don’t know what’s in it yet,’ ” Blackwell said.

County council has already held two procedural votes and a public hearing on the extension, which will allow Rock Hill to collect rising property tax revenue from the district for infrastructure bond payments until 2039. Council members could cast a third and final vote on the issue Monday at 6 p.m. at the county Agricultural Building. But public bodies are required to give advance public notice to hold a second hearing, meaning the earliest a hearing and vote can now be held is June 1.

Instead, council will hold a closed executive session Monday to review the agreement details as a “contractual matter,” then release the document to the public. Blackwell said he’d like to make as many of the details known during Monday’s meeting “as the attorney will allow.”

City leaders have said the extension is necessary to complete the transformation of Knowledge Park from a disused former cotton mill to a business and residential hub that will act as a bridge between the downtown business district and Winthrop University.

But county officials have been leery of allowing the special tax district to go on indefinitely, and any final deal is likely to include concessions such as raising the county’s tax revenue from the district to an updated 2015 assessment rate, and requiring the city to make regular reports to the county on Knowledge Park’s progress.

Several council members have said if Rock Hill is tardy on those reports, the county might still back out of the deal.

Rock Hill City Manager David Vehaun said last week that the two sides have made “very good progress,” but declined to comment on the final agreement until it receives approval from county council.

“That decision really now rests with the county,” he said.

Bristow Marchant •  803-329-4062