The North Augusta City Council voted 5-1 on Tuesday night for a resolution supporting “Project Jackson,” a large riverfront development that includes a new stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets.
Councilman James Adams, the only vote against, said he opposed expending city money on the project.
Public comments lasted for more than two hours, and several homeowners from River Club subdivision, which adjoins the development site, spoke against the project.
Homeowners association President Steve Donahue said 85 percent of River Club homeowners surveyed, including him, opposed the development.
Asked by Councilwoman Carolyn Baggott to stand, about a third in the audience indicated they preferred a development with a hotel but no stadium.
Parking, traffic and congestion issues are among the concerns the city will continue to examine before it proceeds, Baggott said.
Homeowner Tim Pletcher said he had moved to the area with an understanding that it was “mixed use,” but not that one of its uses might include a stadium.
Donahue questioned how the riverfront site fits the requirements of South Carolina law regarding tax-increment financing districts for “blight.”
He said that at least two houses in the district have been assessed at $1 million.
The $50 million proposal would be financed using revenue bonds serviced with
tax increments from new development in the tax district.
“Just ask yourself, is this blighted?” Donahue said, suggesting the city is “building the stadium first and looking for the justification later.”
Mayor Lark Jones said the city “didn’t have any offers on the table” such as the stadium, hotel, convention center and housing proposed when the tax district was completed in 2001.
At the meeting, homeowner Rod Berg questioned the density of the proposed development, to be accessed by a two-lane road, and suggested another location by two exit ramps of Interstate 520.
“After a ball game, after a wedding reception, those people are going to be walking right downtown,” Berg said. “I just don’t see this particular project being suitable for this 44 acres.”
Jones said that the entire project was “high density” but that the suitability of the density of the proposal would be reviewed.
The parts of the plan – including several restaurants and homes and apartment
developments – point to the riverfront location, Jones said.
“This really is a unique little community,” Berg said. “I really hate to lose our uniqueness and the closeness we have.”
The announcement last month that North Augusta officials had been in discussion with developers and GreenJackets promoters for months took some in the area by surprise, including in Augusta, where the GreenJackets have been asking for a new stadium for years.