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Funding for Project Jackson could see votes soon

Posted: July 16, 2013 - 10:55am

Nearly two months after North Augusta officials presented the Aiken County school board with a new financial model for a riverfront development proposal that includes a baseball stadium, Mayor Lark Jones says a vote is expected “within the next few weeks.”

The plan submitted May 14 cut the school board’s participation time in half and avoids using board money to fund a stadium for the Au­gusta Green­Jackets.

The city will now try to gain votes of approval from the school board, then the Aiken County Council.

The school board met Tuesday and will meet again in August, said Kim Chris­­well, the administrative secretary for the Aiken Coun­ty school district’s deputy superintendent.

“By the end of summer, if both agree to participate in the (Tax Increment Financing district), then you start moving forward with the nuts and bolts of planning, how to handle parking – all of those kinds of things,” Jones said.

The proposal, dubbed Pro­ject Jackson, also includes a proposed 200-room resort-style hotel and conference center, numerous restaurants, office and retail space, and apartments and townhouses. A parking garage would be built next to the stadium, which would adjoin Hammond’s Ferry on the riverbank.

The plan still includes using a TIF district to fund the project over the next 30 years. The model allows North Augusta to collect property taxes through the TIF district. The city would get tax revenue on the incremental difference between rising property values and values for Aiken County, which would remain frozen at 1996 levels for 30 years.

The new model includes a way for the school board to exit the tax district after 15 years, while the city and county would remain.

Jeff Eiseman, the president of Agon Sports & Enter­tain­ment, which owns the Green­Jackets, said the tax district should be viewed as a positive for development.

“Sometimes when they hear TIF district, they assume it’s tax; it’s tax created from improvement,” he said. “People make the assumption it’s moving bucket to bucket, but it’s money that wouldn’t exist without a project.

‘‘A TIF exists to encourage development.”

The new GreenJackets ownership offered an additional $2 million toward the project.

“Some don’t realize how much this would benefit the community,” Eiseman said. “It’s something successful; it’s entertainment for the CSRA. It goes well beyond a baseball stadium. Sometimes that’s missed.”

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