York County could charge Lake Wylie residents more than they were told they’d pay when voted to tax themselves to build a new $9.45 million sports park.
York County Councilwoman Allison Love, who represents the Lake Wylie area, is making her case to raise the special recreation tax, approved by voters two years ago, to get more. In a recent Facebook post, Love details what an extra $4 a year in tax on a $100,000 home would buy to appeal to people who voted for it and those who didn’t.
“This began as an all sports park and many of you did not vote for it,” Love wrote in the post. “Those who did will love what’s being built as far as fields and sports opportunities for kids. But what about those of us who don’t have kids and are not interested in sports?”
The nearly 70 comments by Tuesday vary in agreement or opposing the tax increase.
In 2016, 57 percent of more than 12,000 Lake Wylie voters decided to create a new recreation tax district. The vote followed months of plans and public meetings by a committee birthed from Lake Wylie Athletic Association. The group said Lake Wylie needs sports fields. The county promised $2.45 million hospitality tax money, a two percent tax charged on food and drinks in unincorporated areas of the county, but only with the new tax district.
The referendum stated the county could charge up to 10 mills. Park proponents told the community they expected to charge half that amount, about 5 mills, for a sports park on 50 acres of county land along Crowders Creek, near the Paddlers Cove and Tullamore subdivisions.
The original sports complex plan laid out for voters was for the 50 acres, plus 18 nearby, at 5668 Charlotte Highway to include three baseball /softball fields and three multipurpose fields mainly for soccer, lacrosse and football, tennis and basketball courts, an 18-hole disc golf course, playground, picnic shelter, walking trails, a dog park and more.
The reason a tax district is needed was the county’s insistence on not paying for operations or working like a parks and recreation department.
“This is what the citizens of that area voted to tax themselves to be able to do this,” said Councilman William “Bump” Roddey at a recent Council meeting. “York County, we’re not in the parks business.”
Now some of the same people who led the push for the park sit on the tax advisory board. The vision remains the same, but construction costs increased the past two years. The board members are concerned about asking for an increase, although it remains within the limit of the referendum.
“The committee is concerned that they promised it would be five mills, and I think they’re concerned about going back on that even though they are all in favor of the community center,” Love said Monday morning.
A community building with an open pavilion, offices and restrooms is part of the presentation design team Woolpert gave York County Council at its most recent meeting. The plan involves three multipurpose fields, three baseball fields, six pickleball courts, a playground, walking trails, picnic shelters, a two-story scorer’s tower and the community building.
“There’s been a lot of need in this portion of this county for this particular project,” said Andrew Pack, Woolpert vice president.
Love sees the community center as integral to the park. People without children or sports teams of their own could gather there, as they could use walking trails and picnic areas. The community center is similar to the one at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill. That site routinely hosts government and other meetings along with sports events.
“We are still looking at ways to cut the cost,” Love said, adding corporate donations could help fund the difference between what residents were told and what the park with a community center likely will cost. “My goal is to have the lowest millage tax rate and the most benefit for those that pay it.”
The five mills means Lake Wylie homeowners pay $20 per $100,000 in property value, or $30 per $100,000 for business and rentals.
The difference between five and six mills is an estimated $4 for every $100,000 of property value, per year. For some, it makes a difference.
“This is what happens when you do not start the work soon after approval,” posted Cathy Mahoney Helms, who voted against the tax district. “Of course prices go up. Now you need more money. This should have been considered when you added this to the docket.”
Many expressed concern a dog park is no longer included. Love said it would have been crammed into the site, but she is working to get a bigger dog park elsewhere.
“So are we going to have to increase our taxes again to get the dog park that some of us voted in favor of this project for?” posted Michele Rombach-Morgan.
Donna Plueger shared concern about the dog park, too.
“How can they find space for all of the new extras but can’t manage to find the space for the dog park to be built that was originally vote on?” she posted.
Others say they would support an increase only if it involves additions they are likely to use.
“I would only vote in favor of it if there were tennis courts,” posted Rebecca Watkins. “Then perhaps we could have tennis lessons offered. Not pickleball. We are the no children demographic.”
Others supported the community center, envisioning a farmers market, food trucks, music, outside movies.
“Our area has no facilities like this and having one is good for everyone when it comes to real estate values,” posted Amanda Zahn Winter. “Yes. It would have been nice if it didn’t take so long for the county to move on it, but that doesn’t change the benefit of it.”
Some who stated they don’t have children or grandchildren who would play sports at the park, support it still.
“These changes for additional community activities would include everyone that is paying for it,” posted Benita Westbrook.
Design work is about half done. Site work and land clearing has begun.
“Construction has already started,” Pack said. “We’ve already started doing some clearing. So we’ve got some early activity going on with the project.”
Woolpert and builder J.D. Goodrum are working on about 32 of the 50 acres. Permitting for buildings would start at the first of the year. The park sis expected to be completed by March 2020.
“We’ve still got a ways to go, to look at the cost picture to come in as close to what we put out there as possible,” said tax advisory committee member Tom Smith, who as a York County councilman worked to secure the 50 acres through a development agreement.
Pack said his group is working with a marine theme for the buildings, and particulars such as how many and where to place restrooms. Details such as where to put trails and playground structures are important, he said, to ensure as many people as possible can use the site.
“It’s very critical to make sure that we design parks within parks,” Pack said. “Again there’s both active and passive recreation. There’s going to be a lot of use with the community just coming into that facility.”
Love has the same vision.
“The unavoidable cost of building our park is a given,” she wrote in the post. “I am asking you to support being taxed a tad more to gain much more use of this great amenity. Again, my goal is to have the folks who voted for it love it and to have those who voted against it like it, and for all of us to use it and enjoy it.”