That potential Panthers site in Rock Hill? It isn’t technically in Rock Hill - yet.

That potential Panthers site in Rock Hill? It isn’t technically in Rock Hill.

But the city is working on it.

A day after South Carolina lawmakers finalized a $115 million tax incentive deal to bring the Carolina Panthers training facility from Charlotte to Rock Hill, attention turned to further work needed to make the deal happen. Including, quite likely, bringing the land itself into Rock Hill.

For two months attention centered on a more than 200-acre site along I-77, between the Cherry Road and Dave Lylie Boulevard exits. Multiple reports have talks between the team and city focused there, on property bordered by the interstate, Anderson Road and the Eden Terrace extension.

Mayor John Gettys said Tuesday he wouldn’t confirm an exact location.

“I can’t confirm the exact location,” he said, “but where you believe it to be is probably the property that’s in question.”

Yet land use maps show that site isn’t in city limits.

It’s unincorporated York County, surrounded by properties that are in the city. For mailing address and similar purposes, the site’s relation to city boundaries isn’t of much significance. Anyone would call it Rock Hill.

But for tax revenue generated, money the city might contribute to infrastructure upgrades, where special tax money from potential hotels and restaurants might go — it’s a big deal.

Bill Meyer, planning director for the city, said highest-level Panthers decisions are for mayors and governors rather than his department. Meyer didn’t offer any information on what the Panthers might do or what site it might involve. He did confirm the land use maps are correct related to the 200-acre property.

“It’s not in the city limits currently,” Meyer said. “It touches the city limits in a couple of places.”

That touching is important. Property contiguous to municipal limits is a key requirement for annexation, or bringing property into a city or town. If a property owner bordering city limits requests annexation, the decision comes down to the city and landowner.

“If people request annexation, it’s pretty simple,” Meyer said. “Voluntary annexation by a landowner is not that complex.”

City staff would review information and make a recommendation. So would the city planning commission. Rock Hill City Council would have to pass two readings, and the city would expand to include the property.

Annexation becomes more difficult if it’s an established neighborhood or an area where most, but not all, of the property owners are requesting it. The large site near the interstate has one listed owner.

A variety of factors can go into whether a property is annexed. Public utility service to the area, intended use by the property owner, that use’s fit into what already surrounds the site and other factors are considered.

“Each one is individual,” Meyer said of annexation requests. “When a developer is looking to annex property and develop it, each project has its own details that need to be taken care of.”

If a property owner ahead of a sale to the NFL franchise, or the Panthers team itself, applies for annexation the city and landowner would work toward a development agreement outlining details on land use, zoning, appearance. Much like Rock Hill did with additions such as Riverwalk and University Center.

“The City of Rock Hill does this every day,” Gettys said of land use planning. “This is a more high-profile example. The outcomes that the Carolina Panthers and the city will want line up pretty well.”

Because of how annexation works, it isn’t a situation where York County and Rock Hill would fight to lay claim to the property and the tax revenue. If the landowner applies for annexation into Rock Hill, Rock Hill makes the decision.

With work thus far from Gov. Henry McMaster down through the state legislature, to the local legislative delegation and both city and county leaders, Gettys sees plenty of cooperation and benefit throughout the state. Including York County, which has been “a very active participant” to this point.

“In this case, I do see that there will be a coming together and involvement with the county,” Gettys said. “This is a transformative project for our community. There will be a lot of people at the table.”

The difference in a Panthers site just inside or outside city limits could be important for decades to come. Hotels pay accommodations taxes. Restaurants pay hospitality taxes on food and drink. Revenue from both goes to tourism-generating projects.

New hotels and restaurants springing up in 200-plus acres of unincorporated York County could help fund projects like an agritourism facility, new parks, even the riverfront Project Destiny on 1,900 acres. That same revenue in Rock Hill could go toward the new sports and events venue or major events like BMX championships.

Possible development coinciding with the new Panthers practice site could include anything from hotels and restaurants to a major medical facility, conference center and light rail extension into Charlotte.

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