York County Council gives initial OK to selling Knights Stadium

adouglas@heraldonline.comApril 22, 2013 

— The York County Council on Monday gave its initial approval to selling Knights Stadium in the Fort Mill area to make room for a $36 million distribution center promising 130 new jobs.

Cato Corp., a Charlotte-based apparel retailer, has a development plan for the 32-acre site off Gold Hill Road and 256 acres surrounding it that Cato recently purchased for $7 million.

Cato will pay about $844,000 to York County for the stadium land.

When the Charlotte Knights announced plans to move to a new stadium in downtown Charlotte beginning in 2014, county leaders tossed around several ideas of what to do with the stadium property, which included using the site for recreation or agri-tourism.

Last year, the council formed a committee to study what use would work best.

On Monday, four members of thecouncil approved selling the property to Cato. Three members, Bump Roddey, Curwood Chappell and Joe Cox, left the meeting early which lasted until almost 10:30 p.m.

The four members also approved an incentive package for the company to reduce what Cato will pay in future property tax.

Mark Farris, York County’s economic development director, said Cato plans to bring office buildings on a section of the land facing Interstate 77.

More office space is needed in York County, Farris said, and Cato’s plan will meet some of that need.

If the council gives final approval after two more readings and a public hearing, Cato plans to invest about $450 million and create 7,000 jobs in total on the 300-acre site.

In other action Monday, the council unanimously passed a resolution directing Farris to pursue an incentive package with a company looking to expand its operations in Rock Hill.

The company – dubbed “Project Heartland” – plans to invest $18 million and create 75 jobs.

The business, which has been in Rock Hill since 1991, plans to bring machine equipment from an operation in Indiana and from overseas.

An incentive package through York County would save “Project Heartland” money on property tax over the next 30 years.

Councilman Bruce Henderson proposed that his district in the Lake Wylie area be returned the hospitality tax money it paid to the county last year.

York County’s hospitality tax – a 2 percent levy on prepared foods and non-alcoholic beverages sold in unincorporated areas – collected about $352,000 from District 2 last year, Henderson said.

It’s only fair to let the district that “generates” the money, keep the money for building parks and tourism attractions in their area, he said.

In his district, Henderson said, the majority of money raised by the 2 percent tax is paid at local businesses by residents – not visitors.

In recent months, several people have lobbied the council for projects to be paid for by the hospitality tax budget.

One proposal is a 50-acre park on Crowder’s Creek park in Henderson’s district.

The York County Convention and Visitors Bureau also has asked the council to help pay for a new visitor’s center in Rock Hill.

The council did not vote Monday on Henderson’s proposal, but Councilman Joe Cox suggested that the idea might land on his committee’s table.

“The finance and operations committee ought to be pretty interesting the next few months,” he said.

Cox’s committee also has taken the lead in on-going negotiations with Piedmont Medical Center’s contract for emergency medical services in the county.

The group will probably meet two more times, Cox said, before coming to the full council for an EMS vote.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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