Thursday, January 24, 2013
Dorchester County will try to sell of a portion of the Pine Trace property to fund the park system it wants to build.
Council voted Tuesday to authorize the staff to execute a listing agreement with ReMax Pro Realty.
The listing agreement hasn't yet been signed, so the details aren't completely clear. However, the basic idea is to sell about 50 acres along Miles Jamison Road, use the money to pay the bond that was issued against the franchise fee money, and then use the $350,000 or so in annual franchise fees to build up the parks.
County officials hope a development along the lines of a retirement community would be interested in the area.
Whether the money from the sale would be directed solely at Pine Trace or spread around to the St. George courthouse park, Ashley River park or other locations remains to be determined.
The county purchased the more than 330 acres known as Pine Trace, once slated for a new subdivision with hundreds of homes, in November 2011 for $3 million.
It used a combination of funding: money from the school district, which bought a small portion to build a school; money from the $5 million parks and recreation bond; and money from the bond issued against the franchise fee money.
Conceptual plans for the land, which is behind the Coastal Center, include sports fields, walking and biking trails, picnic areas and an agreement with Go Ape!, a private company that would rent land to offer a treetop adventure course.
Although the county has bought a significant amount of acreage in the last couple years, it doesn't have money to fund operations at the proposed parks. Thus, it's been looking to private partnerships and moneymaking niches to fund operational costs, which can be as basic as paying someone to cut the grass on the soccer field or as elaborate as paying a director and staff who would direct youth programs and organize festivals.
“We're trying to come up with a solution,” said Council Chairman Bill Hearn of the operational costs.
The land that's sold will still be but a portion of the overall property, he said.
“We're not going to put something in that's incompatible with the tract. … I couldn't foresee retail going in there,” he said.
Councilman Jay Byars, who chairs the parks commission, said selling part of the land has become necessary.
“I would love not to, but the economic reality is to build anything, we have to raise some capital,” he said.
The county has actually accomplished the first three items it set out to do: buying the land, getting the school district to agree to buy a portion, and getting the town to rezone it, Hearn said.
When the idea of buying Pine Trace first came up, it seemed totally pie-in-the-sky, he said, but with those first three items taken care of, it's looking more possible that the rest can happen.