Public support sought for park in Lake Wylie

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comMay 21, 2013 

— Backers of a new Lake Wylie park plan haven’t gotten the results they want after presenting their case to the county. So they’re going public.

Past Lake Wylie Pilot press time Monday night, a county committee meeting in York on hospitality tax spending was expected to draw not only Councilman Bruce Henderson, but also business leaders and at least one former County Council member from Lake Wylie. Henderson helped organize the showing. The group hopes to influence the committee into funding a roughly $5 million park on county-owned property near Crowders Creek.

The group, working with the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce, also plans to have a community meeting by month’s end where they’ll invite county leaders to discuss a breakdown of hospitality tax spending. As of press time, a date and location hadn’t been set.

Discussion in recent months has centered on how much money comes from the Lake Wylie area through a countywide 2 percent hospitality tax charged in unincorporated areas. The largest collection area is Fort Mill where Carowinds and Baxter Village do business outside town limits. Next is Lake Wylie.

Park pushers say too much of the hospitality tax money goes to projects or groups in Rock Hill, such as the county Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“People need to understand that our taxes are going south, and they’re not coming back,” said former Councilman Tom Smith.

Henderson said the amount of money that’s come back to his district, compared to what it has put in, is like “throwing pennies on the table.”

“Why is it morally sound to take all this money for all these years, and it go somewhere else?” Henderson said.

Another issue is whether to promote existing facilities or create new ones. Lake Wylie leaders say a new park could be added to similar facilities in Rock Hill or elsewhere to draw larger sporting events. With a park, money spent on promotions like what’s going to the visitor bureau helps Lake Wylie, park proponents say. Without one, it doesn’t.

A project competing for hospitality tax funding at is a new $1.5 million visitor center at Rock Hill’s Riverwalk. Visitors Bureau staff told Council the center will bring in visitors and promote tourism countywide. Local leaders say a park is needed more.

“We’ve already got a visitor center,” Smith said, noting Lake Wylie’s facility at the chamber of commerce. “We don’t need one. We need a park.”

There’s even talk of trying to divide the Fort Mill/Rock Hill corridor where visitors come via I-77 from the Lake Wylie/Clover area, where south Charlotte and Gaston County, N.C., bring in the most visitors. An east-west divide could include a visitor center in each hub, and let the tax generated in each area stay there for use as projects arise in those areas.

“You can’t paint a whole county with the same brush,” Smith said.

Park planners are looking at several options before making formal proposals. Their hope is to have a breakdown of past and current hospitality tax collection and spending for the upcoming community meeting.

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