Fort Mill Times

One group spent years on a Lake Wylie park. Another would decide who gets to use it.

A map illustration of the proposed sports park in Lake Wylie by Keck & Wood.
A map illustration of the proposed sports park in Lake Wylie by Keck & Wood. LAKE WYLIE SPORTSPLEX COMMITTEE

It’s a question that’s come up in public park forums. A heated dispute elsewhere in Lake Wylie begs it be asked.

Whose park will it be?

The land is the easy part. Tom Smith, then a member of York County Council, worked with landowner Crescent Resources in 2007 on a 2,300-acre rezoning. The goal was to move commercial and large construction off the lake.

The agreement involved a 50-acre donation from Crescent to the county along Crowders Creek, near the now Tullamore subdivision. Smith and others envisioned a park there. A separate 18-acre donation beside it was intended for county utility needs, as Council was looking to purchase Carolina Water Service.

Those 68 acres still belong to York County. Lake Wylie voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to approve a special recreation tax district to build ballfields and amenities there. The county doesn’t have or want its own recreation department, which is how the tax district idea arose. Council members weren’t interested in funding a facility on county property that couldn’t pay for itself.

“The tax district, that’s what really makes this plan viable,” Smith said.

Smith, now a committee member working toward a new park, didn’t see the ideas from almost a decade ago taking this long. But he and other park planners needed a gameplan that works.

“Then came, how do we pay for it?” he said. “That’s what we’ve been struggling with and working toward.”

In July, York County Council certified the petition to put a Lake Wylie recreation tax decision to voters Nov. 8.

A special tax district paying for the park answers another ownership question.

But who gets to use the park?

“Once it’s open, it’s open for public use,” said Ron Domurat, park committee chairman.

Yet how the proposed park is used raises another question. By county ordinance, the tax district comes with a new board to set its millage rate and oversee park operations and funding. Five residents within the district will be chosen. Many answers given by the park committee now on how the park operates are best estimations. Ultimately, the tax district board will decide.

Perry Johnston understands the tax board setup well. Along with being a park committee member, Johnston is a board member with Bethel Volunteer Fire Department, which is embroiled with its own special tax board now over operational control issues. Top on the list is a paid fire chief, which the board wants but volunteers don’t.

Johnston sees distinct differences in the current fire and proposed recreation tax boards.

“This board will be given sole responsibility for finance and operation of a new grassroots recreational district,” he said of the proposal. “The Bethel fire tax board was given control, by ordinance, of an existing 50-year-old fire department who already had been given control of the same fire district by York County.”

While park committee members are affiliated with Lake Wylie Athletic Association, they say it isn’t the intent for LWAA to control or run the park. They will apply and pay for field time through a reservation system, like anyone else.

“The tax board for this park will be appointed from taxpayers from this tax area and be given the complete task for the full finance and operation of the facility,” Johnston said. “I am sure there will be subcommittees established and paid staff to schedule activities appropriately, however all will be under the direct supervision and control of the tax board.”

The only requirements of the tax board would be final budget reviews by Council and enough outside tournament play to warrant the roughly 25 percent of overall park funding coming from the county hospitality tax, aimed at generating tourism.

“Since some of the park funding is from the hospitality tax the park must hold tournaments and other functions that will generate tourism,” Johnston said. “The park tax board will be given the task that approximately 25 percent of the weekends will be set aside for the sole purpose of tournaments.”

The park committee sees facility use for recreation games during the week and on weekends when tournaments aren’t being held. They see existing youth recreation, and new adult leagues. Ultimately the tax board would decide how often outside tournaments are held, what the rates for reserving field space will be and a host of similar questions park planners get in public meetings and throughout the community.

What the committee knows for sure is the county would own the park, a local tax would keep it running and anyone could visit during daylight hours when it’s open. They hope to work with the new board on a field reservation system to bring in events, but prioritize local play.

“The people in that area should have first priority,” Domurat said.

Ask questions

The Lake Wylie Sportsplex committee is holding its final town hall forum at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at Oakridge Middle School cafeteria.

The goal is to provide information about funding the multi-sport complex near Crowders Creek that will be voted on Nov. 8 during the general election.

The 50 acres at 5668 Charlotte Highway includes 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 and walking trails. Another 18 acres nearby could have a dog park and water access as part of a future phase.

The tax district if approved would allow up to $7 million for construction, plus the $2.45 million from county hospitality tax.

The cost to taxpayers would be $20 per $100,000 in value for homeowners, and $30 per $100,000 for businesses and rentals, planners say.

Learn more at facebook.com/LakeWylieSportsplex.

On the ballot

“Shall a special tax district to be known as Lake Wylie Parks and Recreation District, the area and boundaries of which are described in the Notice of Election and appear on the tax map of the proposed Lake Wylie Parks and Recreation District filed in the Office of the York County Manager and the Board of Voter Registration and Elections of York County, be created in order that recreation services may be rendered therein, with an ad valorem tax to be levied annually by the Auditor of York County and collected by the Treasurer of York County in such amount as the York County Council may hereafter determine, not to exceed ten (10) mills per year, as well as reasonable user service charges to be determined by the Board of the Lake Wylie Parks and Recreation District, in order to provide for the operation and maintenance of the functions of the said special tax district?”

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