York County Council gives final OK (with conditions) to tax district extension

Knowledge Park rendering
Knowledge Park rendering

After almost a year of review and discussion, Knowledge Park’s special tax district will last for another 10 years. At least if Rock Hill sticks with its current developer.

The York County Council gave final approval to an extension Monday, but attached new conditions to the ongoing project.

Council members approved a last-minute amendment to their agreement on the special tax district with Rock Hill, requiring the city to come back to the county for approval again if the City Council doesn’t approve its current development agreement with Sora-Phelps.

Councilwoman Christi Cox made the motion when it became apparent the deal had majority support on final reading, and got support from Britt Blackwell, Michael Johnson and Bruce Henderson. Councilmen William “Bump” Roddey, Robert Winkler and Chad Williams voted against.

Johnson noted the county council had the opportunity to review the incomplete Sora-Phelps agreement in a closed executive session prior to council giving it his approval.

“My point was to get us to see the development agreement,” Johnson said. “And I want the same chance to see another one.”

Stephen Turner, Rock Hill’s economic and urban development director, told the County Council that the Rock Hill City Council will vote on approving the agreement at its next meeting Monday.

After that amendment was approved, the County Council extended the district by a 5-2 vote, along the same lines as its last vote. Only Cox and Bruce Henderson, citing concerns about “back-door eminent domain,” voted against the extension.

But the county did put several new conditions on the city in giving its approval. After the County Council rejected an earlier agreement, the two renegotiated several details of the agreement.

The city must now provide the county with detailed annual reports on Knowledge Park’s progress, spelling out how much money has been spent and on what it’s been spent.

The agreement spells out seven areas where Rock Hill must make reports to the county, including a listing of all revenue and expenditures, a billing statement for each of the three taxing authorities in the district, all bond proceeds and spending, debt service payments by the year due, and a comprehensive annual financial report on the city.

In addition, Rock Hill must provide two status reports on ongoing construction in the district each year to both the county manager and auditor, at the end of January and July.

Rock Hill will be required to submit the details to the County Council by May 1 of each year in order to receive the county’s portion of the district’s funding.

The county also asked for the amount of taxes it collects from the district, currently set at 2004 levels, to be increased to the current 2015 valuation during the additional 10 years of the agreement, beginning in 2029.

The final agreement also throws up roadblocks to any future street car the city may set up to serve Knowledge Park and the wider downtown area. It requires “input” from York County before any county funds from the district are spent on any public transportation items the city is studying for the area, whether or not those options ultimately include a street car.

Rock Hill first created the special tax district in 2004 to fund new development in the former industrial area. York County and the Rock Hill school district had to agree to the district since it redirects property tax revenue toward improvements in the area that would otherwise go toward the other two authorities.

The deal will extend the life of the special tax district for an additional 10 years, out to 2039. Rock Hill got the agreement of the Rock Hill school board at the end of last year.

Bristow Marchant •  803-329-4062