The Town of Hilton Head Island is running out of time to use money raised in a special tax district, which might mean a plan for a linear park between the beach and Broad Creek moves ahead of redevelopment in the Coligny area.
The remaking of Coligny has long been a priority, but the town faces a December 2014 deadline to commit about $13.6 million from a tax-increment finance district. Meeting that deadline could be difficult because the Coligny plan involves negotiations with private property owners that could take years and extend beyond the deadline.
Town Council discussed Tuesday whether it would make more sense to move up and shift more money to the Chaplin Linear Park, which could be built sooner.
The town has already assembled most of the property needed for the mile-and-a-half-long linear park between the beach and Shelter Cove. It still needs to purchase Harold's Diner, the gas station next door, a nearby home and vacant land.
"If we put all of the TIF eggs in the Coligny basket, we might not be able to (spend) the funds in time, and then we lose them," Mayor Drew Laughlin said at the budget workshop meeting. "I'm not suggesting slowing down in Coligny, but am concerned we're not going to be able to get to it in the time frame TIF allows us."
Increased property-tax collections from rising property values in the district have been used since 1999 to build parks, improve roads and extend sewer service. The district encompasses Coligny and Sea Pines circles, Pope Avenue, Palmetto Bay Road, Mathews Drive, and the Stoney and Chaplin neighborhoods.
Town officials are awaiting the results of an economic study for a new commercial district they envision at Coligny before deciding how best to use TIF money to spur private investment in the area.
Plans call for redeveloping a mix of town land, private holdings in Heritage and Coligny plazas, and other property.
No matter how the TIF pie is sliced, though, it won't be enough to redevelop Coligny and build the linear park.
"At some point, we'll have to find more money," town manager Steve Riley said. "We may be able to find more money as existing debt expires and then stagger new debt on to keep the same (tax) rate."
Town staff proposed a year ago using about $6.3 million for Coligny, but actual costs are likely to be significantly higher.
It's unclear how much the linear park will cost, although one town official estimates about $12 million. About $2.5 million in TIF money has been set aside for it.
Other projects within the special tax district also have tentatively been earmarked to receive the remaining TIF dollars.
But if the town risks losing money set aside for Coligny, why not direct all or a portion of that money to pay for an underfunded linear park, Laughlin asked.
"We really have to be cognizant how we most effectively use our TIF money before it goes away," Laughlin said.