Debate in Charleston County over Kiawha development cash - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Debate in Charleston County over Kiawha development cash

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Map from Beach Co. on work being considered Map from Beach Co. on work being considered
Charleston County, SC -

The plan presented to the public on Thursday evening has a lot of residents on Johns Island at odds with big developers and local government. The "Beach Company" is asking for roughly $85-million in county money to pay for a planned development on the southern end of Johns Island.

The issue with residents and some County Council members is that taxpayer money would be funding such an effort for a private business.

The map of the planned development shows a sprawling and ambitious endeavor. A plan which Thomas Legare of Legare Farms says would permanently scar the Island's rural charm. "We don't want a suburban style development on Johns Island. Johns Island is a very rural area with limited access on and off the island; we are trying to keep it an agricultural area."

Hundreds of acres could be developed and the privately owned "Beach Company" wants cash from county taxpayers to help subsidize the effort. At Thursday's meeting in Charleston County the plan was presented by both "Beach Company" officials and those on the county payroll.

To get the project off the ground insiders say council members will first have to change the rules a little on how public money is invested. Most building projects usually fall under the TIF or Tax Increment Financing District.

TIF protocol is for projects in specific areas using taxpayer money. The project is usually to enhance or increase the value for properly zoned or most times, previously developed land. The money for infrastructure and the overall "improvements" would be paid back over several years with new tax revenue generated by the project.

Although some council members and residents are saying this plan with the Beach Company is much different. It's more like a risk or reward investment with a business.

They are a private company and would use the money to fund a project that is not properly zoned and is not previously developed.

The Beach Company and some council members in favor say the public will eventually benefit from the increased tax revenue generated once the development is complete. But will the investment offer the return? Some say it's gambling with public money to pay for a private investment.

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