Sumter County development project put on hold

07/24/2013 11:00 PM

07/24/2013 9:19 PM

Five months after originally approving a deal with an anonymous company regarding a new economic development project, Sumter County Council has officially put Project Dark Wolf on hold.

Council members voted Tuesday to table a proposal to adopt a fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement with the company code-named Dark Wolf, after voting in February to approve the incentive for a new project in Sumter County.

The latest development leaves open the question of what Dark Wolf is, what the company wants to do in Sumter and what exactly is holding the project up.

For legal reasons having to do with securities filings and disclosure regulations, companies in the early stages of reaching such agreements with local governments want to conceal their identity until all details are finalized and ready to be announced. Counties will normally vote on first and second readings of a fee agreement using a code name before revealing the company at third reading.

But for reasons that appear to be beyond the company’s or the county’s control, Dark Wolf is unable to finalize its plans for expanding into Sumter County, and council members are unwilling to approve a project without saying what company they are reaching a deal with.

County Attorney Johnathan Bryan said he recommended council take some action on the fee proposal as a “house-cleaning” measure, since council had never taken any further action on the proposal since taking an initial vote to approve the deal on Feb. 26.

“They’re still not ready to announce, so I told them we’d schedule a vote to table it just so it isn’t hanging out there in limbo,” Bryan said.

The vote to table doesn’t kill the proposed agreement, but it formally removes the item from county council’s agenda until they decide to bring it back up.

In the initial proposal voted on by council, Dark Wolf sought to make an investment in “the expansion of a manufacturing facility” worth $30 million over five years. Under the terms of the agreement, the company would enter into a fee agreement in lieu of tax payments as an inducement, using a 6 percent assessment ratio during a period of 20 years.

While Tuesday’s vote delays that deal for a while, Bryan held out hope the project will go forward once Dark Wolf clears some other hurdles.

“We can just pick it back up again if they decide to go forward,” Bryan said.

In other news, council voted to rescind at least some portions of other economic development ordinances regarding multi-county industrial parks. As part of council’s budget negotiations in June, members agreed to put all funding from multi-county parks into the budget’s infrastructure fund, which necessitated removing language in previous ordinances that may have set other terms for using the funds.

Council also voted to establish a new standing committee to deal with land-use issues. Charles Edens will chair the committee, which will also include Artie Baker and Eugene Baten.

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