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Greer SC updates


gman430

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This morning is shaping up to be a big day for Greer. The city just announced plans for a ~$32 million investment in a mixed-use development - ParkView Greer - that will be home to 226 upscale apartments + a standalone brewery and restaurant. 

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  • 1 year later...

Passed through Greer this weekend, so here are a few photos of construction near downtown.

Hampton Inn and parking deck nearing completion.  Land cleared for ParkView Greer (226 apts and brewery/restaurant) next door:

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Construction progress on The Lively Victor Park (318 apts on former Victor Mill site):

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  • 2 months later...

Greenville chairman axes tax deal for $43M Greer project with finance committee do-over

Greer mayor calls it ‘unethical,’ developer claims ‘underhanded.’ Willis Meadows says he is sending a message about ‘unfair’ project incentives.

 

^^ This is a headline from the Post & Courier. I don't have a subscription. Does anyone know more.   

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Cliff's notes: Meadows doesn't like FILOT for mixed use development.  He has voted for them before, but only because they "slipped by" (Bridgeway Station).  He prefers TIF, which the article states would have netted the county less taxes than FILOT, which is why the school district rejected TIF and approved FILOT.  The project's FILOT had been passed by the county finance committee and sent to council.  The developer has spent $6M, and the city of Greer has spent $2M for street improvements around project in anticipation of approval. 

Meadows says he deferred to councilman Mike Barnes, who represents the area, who stated that he didn't like tax incentives for projects that didn't bring a new company or specified number of jobs.  Meadows then convinced the developer, Keith Eades, to send project back to the finance committee for reasons.  Then Meadows replaced 2 councilmen on that committee, but that was, evidently, a coincidence.  The two new members of the committee voted to reject the FILOT. 

Financing for the project is not possible without FILOT.  Meadows said the developer overpaid for the property, but that's not the county's problem.

Lynn Ballard is bringing is up at the next full meeting to have a vote by the council.

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Here is the full article for those curious:

Quote

GREER — Political machinations and a more fiscally-conservative economic course set by Greenville County Council’s chairman may scuttle tax incentives intended to boost a $43.5 million mixed-use project across from Greer City Park.

The loss of incentives could torpedo the project, the developer said. The city of Greer, meanwhile, has already spent $2 million on street improvements in what Greer Mayor Rick Danner said was an expectation the county would approve the package.

In an about-face, the County Council’s finance committee rejected a fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement (FILOT) with the North Carolina-based developer for the project, codenamed Project Homecoming. It would remake a blighted area near downtown Greer into a mixed-use development with apartments, retail and restaurant space with views of Greer’s central park near the heart of the city’s downtown.

 

The committee’s decision came two months after it had already approved the incentives package and sent it to the full council. In early September, developer Keith Eades said Greenville County Council Chairman Willis Meadows convinced him to ask to send the project back to the finance committee so Eades could gather more information on economic models for the project and speak with the county’s economic engine, the Greenville Area Development Corporation.

By the time the agreement arrived back to the finance committee, Meadows had removed two councilmen — Joe Dill and Butch Kirven — from the finance committee. They were replaced by Ennis Fant and Stan Tzouvelekas, who then joined Meadows in voting against the incentives package. The matter can still come before the full County Council, which next meets Oct. 19.

In an email informing Dill he was off the committee on the weekend before it was set to vote on the incentives, Meadows said Dill was too busy with his role as chairman of the council’s planning and development committee to also serve on the finance committee.

Dill said he was caught by surprise by the suddenness and felt the move was a personal affront by a colleague he once stood beside on many contentious issues.

“I didn’t need a break,” Dill said. “I didn’t need any rest.”

Meadows said Oct. 18 he did not replace Dill to manufacture the votes he needed to kill incentives for Project Homecoming. Rather, he said, the chairman of the planning and development committee normally didn’t serve on another committee because of the workload.

“That had nothing to do with it,” Meadows said. “It happened to come up at the same time.”

But, he added, the finance committee would now be “a more conservative thing on economic development now” that he had reshaped it with different members. Those members, Tzouvelekas and Fant, have voted in near lockstep with Meadows in his 10 months as council chairman.

Project Homecoming

Greenville County often offers financial incentives to induce economic development projects. Most of the time, but not always, those projects promise a certain monetary investment and number of jobs created within a timeframe as part of the agreement. If the project doesn’t pan out or the company doesn’t deliver, the agreements include clauses allowing the county to recover its investment.

Often those agreements are hashed out in secret executive sessions by the council before being voted on publicly. The projects are given codenames in most cases to keep the company name a secret until the day an agreement is finalized.

In the case of Project Homecoming, the developer asked to pay a set fee instead of full property taxes on the land it acquired and planned to improve. For 15 years, the county would collect a fraction of the full taxes on the properties, saving the developer money as the improved properties would be assessed at higher values.

The codename Homecoming fit the bill because Eades is a Greer High School graduate whose North Carolina development company, Idea River Development, has an office in Spartanburg and completed a project recently in Boiling Springs.

Eades said the city of Greer had approached him about the project after past attempts to revitalize a stagnant block of the city’s downtown had fallen through. The site at the corner of Cannon and Jason streets sits a block from Greer’s recently renovated Trade Street and in the midst of the city’s Center City downtown economic development area.

The city of Greer approved a plan to pay for public improvements to the site and Greenville County Schools approved the tax incentives plan.

 
 

Eades planned to build a $43.5 million mixed-use project on the full city block of land that overlooks a large pond, gazebo and walking paths in the city park across the street. His company, under the name Park View Greer LLC, paid $3.43 million in late 2020 for 10 properties totaling just under six acres, according to county records. Eades has already broken ground on the project.

The site has significant challenges that have prevented its redevelopment for years, Mayor Danner said. A former tire business required cleanup under state Department of Health guidelines and the site slopes drastically, requiring thousands of yards of dirt to be added to the location, he said.

Seven of the 13 buildings located on the site were vacant or abandoned prior to Eades’ purchase, he said.

Danner called it the last “blighted” section of the city’s downtown core. He said the city worked with Eades “in good faith” that the county would follow through on its incentives.

Tax break opposition

Though most county economic development incentives are for industrial or job-creating commercial projects, the county has given FILOT packages to a number of other mixed-use developments in recent years.

It approved a FILOT for the $50 million Project Unity Gateway where CitySculpt plans a mix of market rate and workforce apartments at the corner of Academy and West Washington streets in downtown Greenville. It also approved a FILOT for The McLaren, another downtown Greenville mixed-use project with market rate and affordable apartments. Earlier this year, the council approved a FILOT agreement for Bridgeway Station, a mixed-use project by developer Phil Hughes along Interstate 385 and Bridges Road in Mauldin.

Meadows, a noted fiscal hawk, said the agreement for Bridgeway Station slipped past him. Otherwise, he said he would have opposed it for the same reasons he opposes incentives for Project Homecoming. Meadows said he also deferred in part to Councilman Mike Barnes, in whose district the project would reside.

Barnes hasn’t yet had to vote on the project. He is not on the finance committee, and the council hasn’t held a vote on it yet. That could change during its Oct. 19 meeting, when Councilman Lynn Ballard said he plans to make a motion to recall the agreement from the finance committee for a vote by the full council.

Barnes told The Post and Courier he is opposed to giving a tax break to a developer for a project that isn’t bringing a specified number of new jobs to the county and isn’t recruiting a business to relocate from out of state.

A tax break for one project puts other taxpaying businesses nearby at a disadvantage, Barnes said.

Meadows said Project Homecoming doesn’t meet the criteria he believes should be present for tax incentives. A project for the public good should benefit all taxpayers, not a select few, he said.

“It’s unfair for the competition,” Meadows said. “Here’s one man who’s paying 3 percent on his taxes. Here’s another who’s paying 25 percent more right next to him.”

 

Meadows said if the developer needed the county to chip in to make a project work, he was overextended.

“If you look at the property, you can’t pay too much for it,” he said. “If you pay too much for it, you’re not going to make it. I don’t know what he paid for it, but he said he’s got to have us in order to get his financing. That tells me he’s overextended.”

Eades said he has already spent $6 million on the project and planned to invest $43.5 million in all. Construction costs increased $3 million to $4 million since the pandemic began and the total return on the project would be around $44 million, not enough to secure financing from a bank, he said.

The county incentives would correct that loan-to-value ratio and make the project financing work, Eades said.

‘A frontal stab’

Meadows said he told Eades he would rather see him request turning the project site into a tax increment financing (TIF) district, a separate type of incentive structure where the properties are taxed at their current price for a specified number of years even as improvements are made to the site.

Danner said the city had previously considered a TIF district for its entire downtown as it began its revitalization efforts, but the school district immediately rejected the proposal because it would have lost out on significant tax revenue.

The city was led to believe the county would approve its request for a FILOT agreement, Danner said. He said County Council had “pulled the rug out from under” the city after he was led to believe the project would qualify for incentives.

“I have no objection for County Council creating a standard for a project that should qualify or not qualify for a FILOT,” Danner said. “Moving the goalposts on a project that met all local and state parameters was not the time to do that.

“Whether or not it’s illegal, it’s unethical, and opens them up to a lawsuit,” Danner said.

Eades said Meadows hoodwinked him by convincing him to send the incentives package back to the finance committee where it was rejected.

“That’s just wrong. It’s manipulative, it’s underhanded. It’s an abuse of power. That’s a black eye for Greenville County,” Eades said.

Meadows declined to comment on Eades assertions about him but maintained that he was opposed to the project’s incentives from the start and tried to convince Eades to seek a TIF rather than a FILOT agreement.

In this case, a FILOT would actually add more revenue to the county’s coffers over the next 15 years than would a TIF district. While a TIF is taxed at the same assessment over 15 years or longer, a FILOT would be reassessed when a developer receives occupancy permits, multiplying the property tax assessment and adding more tax revenue even if a developer was only required to pay a fraction of it under the FILOT.

Danner said the move sends a message to Greenville’s business community to be wary of working with the county. Dill said he’d already heard from a number of people connected to business that were upset by the machinations.

The council’s new direction on incentives should be a signal to the county’s business class, Meadows said. It has tightened its criteria for approving project incentives.

Meadows said he did not stab Eades in the back by walking back the incentives deal.

“It was a frontal stab if anything because I told him at the beginning I wouldn’t support it,” he said.

 

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Thanks Wellen and Tigers81 for that information. 

I agree with Meadows/Barnes that a TIF is more appropriate than a FILOT in this case. Also, the FILOT should be for new companies and involve job creation of a significant nature.  However, what Meadows did  with sending it back to the Finance committee was  underhanded.  I wonder how long Dill has been on both  Finance and Planning and Development. 

The School Board should have approved a TIF because they had done so for Greenville decades ago.  

Meadows should introduce an ordinance to tighten up the FILOT and passed it, before changing the goalposts in a deal already underway. 

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Denied

A motion from council member Lynn Ballard to recall from the finance committee an economic development agreement for an unnamed project in Greer. The motion failed, 6-6 and drew criticism from council Chairman Willis Meadows, who initially ruled it out of order before other members came to Ballard’s defense.

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