Town Mulls New Plan for UTC Grants

BLYTHEWOOD – The Town was awarded two separate Utility Tax Credit grants from Fairfield Electric Cooperative in 2013 ($240,714) and 2014 ($216,167) for a total of $456,881 to construct a restaurant building in Doko Meadows across from Town Hall. Immediately following the 2012 Town Council election, the three newly seated councilmen – Bob Massa, Bob Mangone and Tom Utroska – successfully led a charge to squash the restaurant proposal, concluding that the Town didn’t need to be in the restaurant business.

On Monday evening, the Town’s economic development consultant Ed Parler suggested that Town Council now use the remaining balance of the grant money to build a ‘shell’ office building in the spirit of attracting a private company to invest jobs in the shell.

The shell building would be situated in a section of the park across from Town Hall in what was previously designated as Doko Business Park Phase 1 and no longer a part of the park. Parler told Council that about $106,686 of the initial proceeds had been charged to the grant and that he feels another $75,586.25 could also be charged, leaving a balance of $382,294.75 to be used for the shell.

“The grant must be used for economic development,” Parler told Council, “and must be used within a set time frame or the Town will become liable for taxes on the monies.”

Parler said any project pursued with the grant money must be approved by the S.C. Department of Revenue (DOR), which must issue a comfort letter, validating any project as sound and fit for purpose before it can proceed.

Parler suggested the existing model of the railroad station previously proposed for the restaurant be replicated.

“Once the grant funds have been expended, I propose that the Town issue a Request for Proposal for an end user to purchase the building and occupy or lease the premises,” he said.

“As a part of the transaction,” Parler said, “the land will be leased for $1 a year for a period of 20 years with renewal options as deemed appropriate by the Town Attorney.”

Parler said the Town should place covenants and restrictions on the use of the property to ensure compatibility and preserve the integrity of the business park and surrounding recreational areas.

Town Attorney Jim Meggs suggested that the work for this project be taken up by the law firm of Parker Poe, which assisted the Town with the proposed restaurant project.

“If the letter is issued and the monies spent, the shell building would,” Parler said, “be flipped and sold off to a business.” He said the proceeds from any sale would return to the Town.

Meggs was asked to make contact with Ray Stevens with Parker Poe and then report back at the next Council meeting on July 29.