Plans for a new visitors center along Riverwalk in Rock Hill have been put on hold indefinitely after the York County Council voted to block a land purchase by the tourism bureau amid concerns over costs as well as the bureau’s long-term future.
Disagreement and confusion among council members and local leaders over the Monday night decision remain, The council was split on a 4-3 vote after a nearly hour-long debate.
“I was so confused by the time I left there,” said Lisa Meadows, director of the Rock Hill/York County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Meadows watched as the council argued over the cost of the purchase, which would have acquired less than an acre of land.
The CVB leases space in the Baxter Hood Center by York Technical College and is funded by a hospitality tax. Meadows said the bureau has been in talks for several years for a permanent location in a more accessible area of the county.
She added that the bureau’s board chose the Riverwalk site unanimously. The bureau promotes tourism through marketing and advertising as a way to fuel “heads on beds” for the local hospitality industry.
Councilman Joe Cox cited high cost as one reason why he was against the Riverwalk deal, which would have cost $219,000 for the land parcel alone. On Monday, Cox proposed to block the purchase as well as remove the visitors center entirely from the agenda.
Meadows said she hoped the council would table the deal, which would temporarily shelve the issue until November and give the council more time to deliberate—a measure strongly suggested by Council Chairman Britt Blackwell.
Gene Roper, who heads the CVB board, said his interpretation was that Riverwalk was still considered a viable option, but said he intends on going in the direction the council sets forth.
“We felt going into Riverwalk was the right thing to do,” Roper said. “Even though I was disappointed, I respect the process.”