Lake Wylie park plan in crowded pool of projects

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comApril 1, 2013 

— Although county leaders support a new park near Crowders Creek in Lake Wylie, there may not be money available.

County Council held a special meeting and workshop March 25 to discuss capital needs, such as expanding the overcrowded Moss Justice Center in York, adding a new Fort Mill facility, and courthouse improvements.

The council briefly discussed projects that could be paid for with hospitality tax dollars, collected in unincorporated areas and used to promote tourism.

Projects included: a $11.2 million park near Crowders Creek, a county agri-tourism facility at $14.9 million, a $2 million visitor center and $1.3 million for lake access improvements at Allison Creek Access Area.

Another project seeking funding is the Rainey house in Sharon. The house is an antebellum home, built in 1910 for the family of John S. Rainey and last inhabited about seven years ago. Local leaders want to turn the house into an educational site and visitors center.

In all, potential projects discussed tallied more than $30 million. The expected hospitality tax balance this summer, when this fiscal year ends, is $3.6 million. Some projects have grant or outside funding options that could cover some of the costs.

Backers of the park plan say the $11.2 million pitched by a consultant isn’t true cost for the 50-acre Crowders Creek property.

“It’s truthfully somewhere between $4 and $5 (million),” said Councilman Bruce Henderson.

Anna Moore, interim county manager, agreed the $11.2 million could be too high. Phasing the project in, backers say, also could reduce initial costs.

“We understand there definitely are concerns with that number,” Moore said.

Including Henderson, the past three District 2 Council reps have worked toward a park they say will provide much-needed recreation space while drawing business to local restaurants and retail during tournaments.

In February, former Councilman Tom Smith told council members the $350,000 or so collected annually by the hospitality tax in unincorporated Lake Wylie should make the park plan a priority. He echoed that concern last week referring the funding request to a committee where it remains.

“All we ever wanted is our fair shake,” Smith said. “Quite frankly, we haven’t had anything to hang our hat on.”

Chairman Britt Blackwell said he’s aware much of the hospitality tax money comes from the area that would most benefit from the park plan.

“Fairness is fairness,” he said.

Council members didn’t prioritize potential projects.

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