Island faces deadline for using Coligny-area redevelopment funding

Time is running out -- and decisions must be made quickly -- if the Town of Hilton Head Island is to use tax money to create a walking district of shops and cafes in the Coligny Beach area.

A 15-year tax increment financing district created by the town to spur redevelopment expires in December of 2014, giving officials until the end of the 2015 fiscal year to use the money.

Property tax revenues flowing to other taxing entities from the district were frozen in 1999. After 2014, incremental tax revenues begin flowing back to Beaufort County, the school district and Hilton Head Island No. 1 Public Service District.

Standing in the way is lack of an agreement with private property owners in the Coligny area to pursue a town proposal to trade town-owned land south of Pope Avenue for commercially owned land north of the road. That would create a quarter-mile-long park surrounded by new commercial and residential development.

"We need a commitment by end of this year to have agreements worked out, because it will take two years to design and permit this thing, or you pull the plug on TIF funding," town manager Steve Riley said Thursday during a council budget workshop session.

Currently, staff has proposed using $6.3 million for Coligny redevelopment, but actual costs are likely to be significantly more, Riley said.

The town expects to collect a total of $65 million in TIF revenues through 2014.

To date, it has spent about $44 million in the 1,400-acre, non-contiguous TIF district, which encompasses Coligny and Sea Pines circles, Pope Avenue, Palmetto Bay Road, Mathews Drive and portions of the Stoney and Chaplin neighborhoods.

About $6.8 million has already been committed for planned projects based on prior budget approvals.

That leaves about $13 million left to spend.

Council ultimately decided to push plans for the Chaplin Linear Park out another year in favor of moving forward with the rest of the planned projects, including holding on to as much money for Coligny as possible in the hope an agreement materializes by the deadline.

"Coligny has the biggest potential assets to throw off cash for the island. I think we need to get this thing moving," said Ward 2 Councilman Bill Harkins.

Progress is being made to work on an agreement with Heritage and Coligny plazas, two of the three largest property owners in that area, officials said.

J.R. Richardson, owner of Coligny Plaza, hired consultants for a recent two-day design and planning session with town staff and council members, said Community Development Director Charles Cousins.

Blanchard & Calhoun Commercial of Augusta, Ga., owners of Heritage Plaza, also brought in architects to help sketch scenarios of a village center concept for the area.

"We are at the point where there is some willingness there. We need to give them opportunity to pull things together and present to us their ideas for what they would like to see for that area and go from there," said Ward 4 Councilwoman Kim Likins.

The next Town Council budget workshop is Tuesday at 4 p.m. in council chambers.