Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill schools finance chief says Cato plan is ‘absolutely beneficial’

Plans for the property surrounding Knights Stadium, and potentially the stadium itself, are “a win” for the Fort Mill School District, said York County Councilman Michael Johnson.

“Certainly the property will bring in additional tax revenue for the school district,” Johnson (R-District 1) said.

“It will benefit the county and the school district. It will certainly have a positive impact on the school district because one of our problems is that our residential versus commercial development is out of proportion. It has been 60 percent residential versus 40 percent commercial and this entire development is going in and there is hardly a single house.”

Johnson’s district includes much of unincorporated Fort Mill, including the stadium property.

Cato Corp., a Charlotte-based apparel retailer, has a development plan for 256 acres surrounding Knights Stadium. It recently purchased the 256 acres for $7 million and is working with the York County Council to also buy the 32 acre stadium site off Gold Hill Road for $844,000, to expand its initial development plan.

Last week, the council gave initial approval to selling Knights Stadium to Cato Corp.

The council also gave initial approval to an incentive package that would reduce future property taxes on a $36 million, 400,000-square foot warehouse Cato Corp plans to build that would bring 130 jobs to the county. The fee-in-lieu of tax agreement would offer the company a 43 percent reduction in property tax liability over a 30-year period.

Long term plans for the 256 acre development – which would total nearly 300 acres if the Knights Stadium purchase is approved – include office buildings along I-77. In total, Cato says it plans to invest about $450 million and create 7,000 jobs on the site, spread out over a ten-year time period.

“We are in dire need of developed property along the interstate to compete with Charlotte for Class A office space,” said Mark Farris, Director of York County Economic Development. “We have the opportunity to attract that in York County.”

There is the potential for a small amount of residential development, but the majority – more than 90 percent of the property – is planned to be commercial, Johnson said.

That is “absolutely beneficial,” to the school district, said Assistant Superintendant of Finance and Operations Leanne Lordo.

The commercial property will generate property taxes, some of which are levied for the district’s operating budget. Residential property does not pay property taxes toward the district’s operating budget because of Act 388, which removed school operating taxes from primary residential property and replaced it with a one cent increase in the state sales tax.

“With growth that comes in that is residential we do not receive any operating tax millage on that development like we do commercial development,” Lordo said. “With this development, we would increase our commercial tax base.”

Residential development continues to be on the upswing in the township. A potential subdivision in the Whites Road area that would have 1,000 new homes came up a recent town planning commission meeting.

It’s important that while residential development is growing, commercial development keeps pace, Farris said.

“We have to have a balance,” said Farris. “We have to have an ever increasing amount of commercial to take the brunt of the liability caused by residential.”

The (Rock Hill) Herald contributed to this story.