By Stan Welch
The issue of a proposed incentive package for the developers of a large apartment complex in Pendleton dominated the County Council meeting Tuesday night.
A public hearing saw the reappearance of two long time opponents of all things government. Both Dan Harvell and Rick Freemantle rose to speak against the fee in lieu of taxes (FILOT) being considered. They were joined by Ruby Gerish, current president of the Anderson County Republican Women. In a development that no one could have seen coming, both Harvell and Freemantle praised District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd for her opposition to the plan. A decade ago, the two men routinely called for Floyd’s resignation for her part in the Joey Preston buyout scheme of 2008.
Floyd, for her part, tied the tax cut offered the developer at the request of the town of Pendleton to the earlier discussion of a proposed road fee. She said that the county is giving away tax revenues while it can’t afford to pave its roads. She also complained vociferously that the proposed complex will not meet her definition of affordable housing. “Those apartments are being built for the people who will work at Arthrex. It is not affordable housing by any definition.”
District Four Councilman Brett Sanders, who represents Pendleton, acknowledged the fact that the apartments are close to the Arthrex facility, and seemed unfazed by the fact that some employees might choose to live there. But he denied Floyd’s inferences that there was any link between the company and the proposal. “I have spoken to various people familiar with this project, and the developers have rejuvenated this project and have spent millions of dollars so far. The town has requested that we offer this FILOT and it seems clear that the town and the county will benefit.”
Burriss Nelson, director of economic development, encouraged by District Six Councilman Jimmy Davis, reminded Council that the current property taxes on the seven acre tract will increase from approximately $12,500 to more than $820,000 when the project is completed. Floyd, unwittingly damaging her argument about the road fees, complained that the schools will receive three fourths of that increase, not the county. Nelson also categorically denied any sort of connection between Arthrex and the developer, Falls at Meehan Apartments, LLC.
District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson pointed out the source of the problem. South Carolina has the highest corporate tax rate in the nation at 10.5 per cent. The fee in lieu of taxes mechanism is a means of dealing with the competitive disadvantage that places on elected officials seeking to attract new industry. “Perhaps we should once again respectfully request that the legislature do something about that.”
Several Council members pointed out that Pendleton requested the incentive, and said that was a key element. “We are elected to represent and help those people,” said District Three Councilman Ray Graham. “I have several municipalities in my district, and I certainly understand Mr. Sanders’ desire to help those folks in Pendleton. But if they hadn’t asked us for assistance, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
By Stan Welch