Local issues win veto overrides

June 16, 2010 

With the S.C. General Assembly expected to wrap up its session today, here's the latest on several pieces of legislation of local significance:

OKATIE CROSSINGS INCENTIVES

The Senate amended and advanced a bill that would allow Hardeeville to provide incentives to developers of the proposed 280-acre Okatie Crossings shopping center by imposing a local-option sales tax.

The amended bill largely reverts to a version the Senate passed in March that would allow developers to receive limited incentives after they invest $100 million and create 1,250 full-time jobs, said Sen. Clementa Pinckney, D-Ridgeland.

The amendment also added language requiring developers to adhere to Beaufort County stormwater standards rather than the less stringent standards of Jasper County, where most of the center would be located, Pinckney said.

The stormwater language is similar to that previously proposed in the House, said Pinckney and Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort.

Pinckney said he coauthored the amendment with Davis, a critic of retail incentives who argued against more expansive state tax incentives for the center in March before agreeing to the limited, local incentives.

The amendment was adopted 41-4 Wednesday.

The bill now heads back to the House, where it had not been considered late Wednesday afternoon.

Pinckney said he expects the House will concur with the Senate's changes. If that happens, the bill would be sent to Gov. Mark Sanford's desk for his consideration.

Pinckney said representatives of The Sembler Co. have been briefed on the amendment and indicated they're committed to building at the site.

Sembler, which originally planned to build 1.6 million square feet for Italian and American designers and national retailers, recently let an option to purchase most of the property lapse.

Sembler already owns about 40 acres. Rival developers who own the rest have vowed to develop on their own.

"If and when they work out their land situation, I believe they will be a partner," Pinckney said of Sembler.

The bill would also allow Beaufort County municipalities to impose a separate local option sales tax to raise money for tourism marketing and tourism related capital projects.

COASTAL CONSTRUCTION RESTRICTIONS

A bill that would exempt Fripp Island from some coastal construction restrictions is headed to Sanford's desk after it emerged from a conference committee and was approved by both the House and Senate, said Kate Hines, general manager of the Fripp Island Property Owners Association.

Fripp had been exempt since 1988 because it is ringed by a rock barrier, but state officials last year overrode that exemption by moving lines restricting beachfront development.

Hines said her group is pleased with the result, which she said should restore property values that had been threatened.

If something were to happen to a Fripp house, the bill would allow the owner to rebuild, she said.

"This is good news," she said. "This is what we wanted."

Rep. Richard Chalk, R-Hilton Head Island, had amended the bill when he learned some of his constituents were similarly affected, but his amendment did not survive the conference committee, he said.

ARTS FUNDING

The House voted to override Sanford's veto of more than $1.2 million in funding for the S.C. Arts Commission, meaning the money will stay in the state's budget, according to lawmakers and legislative staff.

The veto, one of 107 the governor made in an attempt to pare the state's budget, would have cut more than half the Arts Commission's $2.1 million funding and cost Beaufort County arts organizations and schools more than $100,000 in grants next fiscal year.

Area arts leaders decried the veto.

Rep. James Harrison, R-Richland, urged his colleagues to override before the House's 89-19 vote, saying arts groups need the money and arguing the arts can boost economic development.

"The arts is one of those quality-of-life issues," Harrison said. "Even in these tough economic times, there's a place for arts in our budget."

The Senate had not voted late Wednesday.

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