Richland County officials have rejected - for now - a city-led proposal for two special tax districts that detractors say would tie up the public's money at the worst possible time.
While County Council hasn't voted on the plan, a majority of the 11-member council is not interested in participating now, council members say.
"It was too aggressive at the wrong time," Councilman Greg Pearce said Monday. "I don't see that the public would have embraced it, either."
The city wanted to capture property-tax growth over the next 25 years in north Columbia and along the riverfront downtown to pay for $194 million in redevelopment in the areas.
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Advocates on City Council plan to bring the proposal back for reconsideration in February, Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine said.
But her counterparts at the county aren't likely to be any more receptive in three months.
"The county simply can't afford it," Councilwoman Val Hutchinson said. "We have to be concerned about providing services for this next year."
County Councilman Bill Malinowski agreed. "Even in February, I can't see it, unless there's some huge economic turnaround."
County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson said the county is under competing pressures, and her priority is figuring out how to underwrite redevelopment projects outside the city, in St. Andrews.
The city's Devine said it made sense to withdraw the proposal, providing a grace period for collaboration with the leaders of County Council and the Richland 1 school district.
She said she did not consider the delay to be a setback.
If need be, Devine said, the city will proceed with a smaller redevelopment plan without the county and school district as partners.
"That is how we first envisioned it," she said.
Under the proposal, 57 percent of the redevelopment costs would be borne indirectly by the school district. The city would shoulder 21 percent and the county 17 percent.
The school board has been noncommittal. But a 25-year commitment was going to be a hard sell, Richland 1 chairman Vince Ford said. "That encumbers five boards from now, maybe more," he said.
Some, notably County Councilman Norman Jackson, are more receptive to a riverfront tax district. It would bolster a budding research campus at the University of South Carolina.
After a closed-door meeting two weeks ago, County Council members Paul Livingston and Damon Jeter arranged a meeting with Devine, the plan's architect.
The two said they told Devine County Council needed more detail on the north Columbia tax district.
Further, they said, their colleagues felt rushed to make a decision.
Devine responded by delaying a public hearing originally scheduled for Wednesday.
But some members of County Council pressed for a clear rejection of the plan.
State law gives partners in a proposed tax district - in this case, the county and Richland 1 - a deadline to "opt out." That means no response becomes tacit approval.
So in a letter dated Friday, and obtained by The State on Monday, Livingston said the county "declines to participate in either of the current Redevelopment Plans."
Livingston's letter leaves the door open to considering "new plans in the future."
Bill Boyd, a leading advocate for the riverfront tax district, issued a statement Monday saying a delay was a good idea.
"We will continue to work with them to ensure that we have plans that ensure transparency, accountability and greater financial responsibility," he said by e-mail.
The riverfront proposal has been pushed by leaders in the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce and the University of South Carolina, among others.