Opinion

Dave Lyle extension would be great for region

The extension of Dave Lyle Boulevard, a proposed roadway project previously endorsed in 1997 by York and Lancaster counties, the city of Rock Hill, our regional Chamber of Commerce, the York County Economic Development Corp. and other area business leaders and elected officials, is now, more than ever, a key to our region's economic future.

New information has come to light that demonstrates the need to complete this vital roadway, thereby providing important linkage between York and Lancaster counties and pumping new revenues into the region to spur economic development, create a new source of school funding and help support other essential regional programs.

A study conducted by the Buxton Co., a nationally acclaimed retail industry consulting firm, demonstrates that regional retail revenues are currently being lost as local shoppers cross the state border for their major purchases. The analysis found that an estimated $277 million every year is seeping out of our region into North Carolina. However, these are revenues that we can now capture locally with the eastward extension of Dave Lyle Boulevard thereby creating new customer markets for South Carolina.

In the first year after the Dave Lyle Boulevard extension is completed, Buxton estimated that approximately $277 million in retail spending could be generated annually, and this could increase to an estimated $359 million annually, five years after completion. Area businesses, including struggling Galleria area merchants and others both in York and Lancaster counties, will be reinvigorated, new business ventures encouraged and new job opportunities created. The additional retail revenues that will be captured locally as a result of the completion of the Dave Lyle Extension will help regional shopping centers such as the Galleria retain and attract a better mix of retailers, keeping even more dollars at home.

In addition, with the yet unknown impacts of the property tax reform package passed by the General Assembly last year, and the increase of the statewide sales tax to provide funding for schools, Dave Lyle is now more important than ever to our region.

Under the new tax reform formula, our school districts can levy property taxes only on commercial and non-owner-occupied property for school operating costs. The expansion of existing and the creation of new businesses as a result of the Dave Lyle Boulevard extension would create additional business revenues that would stay in our local economy and help support our local schools by expanding our tax base.

In fact, the Buxton research noted that the extension of Dave Lyle Boulevard could generate an additional $9.9 million in South Carolina state sales tax revenues in the first year after completion, expanding to $12.7 million annually beginning in the fifth year.

Plus, with new leadership in place at the S.C. Department of Transportation, the opportunity now exists to secure state and federal funding so that the extension of Dave Lyle Boulevard can finally be completed. Private funding also is available through phased residential and community development as well as from other non-public sources. We must secure private funding in order for the project to qualify for funding from the State Infrastructure Bank, a move which would also help to minimize the burden on area taxpayers.

What's more, with the additional sales tax revenues and "Pennies for Progress" receipts that could be generated by the Dave Lyle extension, this project will literally pay for itself in the first few years after completion. According to the Buxton analysis, in the first year after the completion of the extension, an additional $1.8 million in Pennies for Progress revenues could be generated, expanding to $2.3 million annually five years after completion of the extension.

The economic case for securing funding for the extension of Dave Lyle Boulevard is clear. The connection that it would provide between York and Lancaster counties would capture over $277 million in annual retail sales locally that are currently flowing out of our area into Charlotte. It would strengthen our local economy and create an additional $9.9 million in annual sales tax revenues to help pay for our schools and $1.8 million annually in Pennies for Progress revenues in the first year after completion to fund other vital infrastructure needs.

With private funding now available to pay for part of the cost of the roadway extension, the timing is now to make this long-awaited connecting route a reality. We believe that the Dave Lyle Boulevard extension is a good idea whose time has finally come.

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