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City Council gives Project Jackson first reading approval

Posted: October 22, 2013 - 3:15pm
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(Emily Rose Bennett/Staff)  North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones listens during a public hearing on the revised Tax Increment Financing District, which would be used to help fund Project Jackson, at the North Augusta Municipal Building on Monday, October 21, 2013.    EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
(Emily Rose Bennett/Staff) North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones listens during a public hearing on the revised Tax Increment Financing District, which would be used to help fund Project Jackson, at the North Augusta Municipal Building on Monday, October 21, 2013.

The North Augusta City Council gave Pro­ject Jackson first-reading approval by a 6-1 vote Monday night.

Two more readings of the ordinance amending an existing Tax Increment Financing district to fund the $144 million public-private riverfront development are required.

Councilman James Adams was the lone opposing vote, saying he disapproves of government involvement in private investment.

The vote followed a nearly two-hour public hearing with residents voicing both support and opposition for the project, which features an Au­gusta GreenJackets stadium, a hotel and conference center, a YMCA, housing, and retail and office space near the Hammond’s Ferry neighborhood.

The TIF district has received support from the Ai­ken County school board and county council. If the financing model is approved, design and development work could take as long as a year to complete, officials said.

Atlanta-based development group Greenstone Pro­per­ties revealed its plans in De­cember. The total private investment is $101 million.

Hammond’s Ferry resident George Batten said North Augusta needs to remain a bedroom community and not become a tourist destination.

“That is the vision I was sold. There was no mention of a stadium, a parking lot or a conference center,” he said.

Project opponent Stephen Don­ohue said the original TIF district adopted in 1996 was intended to eliminate blight and that the Ham­mond’s Ferry area does not meet that designation anymore.

Mayor Lark Jones said the area was a blighted industrial and manufacturing area when the TIF district was adopted, but that the development goal has not been reached.

“We are amending the cur­rent order so we can finish what we started,” he said.

Rod Berg, of North Augus­ta, objected to using public funding to build a ballpark.

“I like the concept of Pro­ject Jackson. I wish the developers great success,” he said. “What I do not like is you are funding our stadium and parking garage with a TIF.”

Hammond’s Ferry business owner Jeremy Mace was the one of the project’s most outright supporters.

He said the development will attract better clients for his digital advertising firm NewFire Media, expand his staff and create a friendly environment to raise his family.

The second and third readings of the ordinance will be Nov. 4 and Nov. 18.

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