A plan for the city to invest in the future Kline development in the Vista is still on the table for City Council but still is not being discussed publicly.
Council members met in executive session Tuesday to discuss a possible memorandum of understanding, or non-binding agreement, with the private developer of the Kline site.
Council cannot take any votes in executive session.
Some residents, though, are upset that the matter still hasn’t been brought to light in the public and are concerned about it being a done deal before the public gets its say.
“It is of concern that the city is considering entering into an agreement without any public discussion of it,” said Toby Ward, a local attorney. “With any public project, there should be some effort to gauge public support before an agreement or understanding is reached between the city and the proponents of the project.”
What’s being considered is a tax increment financing, or TIF, district to encompass the former Kline Iron & Steel Co. property at the corner of Gervais and Huger streets. Apartments, a hotel, retail and office space are planned there.
Property taxes from a TIF would allow the city to pay some $27 million for a pair of public parking garages, a pedestrian plaza, street improvements and utility improvements.
“It’s exactly what tax increment financing is supposed to do,” Councilman Howard Duvall said.
Any official council action is still some time off, Duvall said, as the city has yet to approach the Richland 1 school district or Richland County to ask for their participation in a TIF district, much less hold a public hearing about the matter. The school district and the county would have to agree to forfeit their portion of property taxes created by the new development for the set life of the tax district.
Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine stressed that no action will come without public discussion and that no TIF can be created without a public hearing.
“I think a lot of misinformation is purposely being passed around by some people,” she said.