Enticement for Investors: County May Consider at Next Meeting
The Bailey Bill. Citizens of Edgefield County may soon be hearing a bit more about this bill as it was presented to Edgefield County Council at their January monthly meeting by several citizens who noted its use could entice investors to the county. What is the Bailey Bill, one might ask. Well, in short, it is a bill that was enacted by the SC Legislature in 1992 that allows local governments to essentially freeze property taxes as a means to encourage restoration/rehabilitation of certain properties, most notably, historical properties. This lock on property taxes can be for up to 20 years, and the tax rate is based on a property’s fair market value at the time of restoration. The term of the rate lock and exactly which properties are eligible for the program may vary by municipality. Those who spoke to Council in favor of the Bailey Bill included Johnston Mayor Terrence Culbreath, Max Shanks, and Sommers Pendarvis all of whom are with Edgefield Preservation Association. Mayor Culbreath said to Council, “I’ve seen this work in other towns and counties across the state.” He told Council that dilapidated homes are a problem in the town of Johnston and that he thought this bill would be a way to attract investors who might be willing to renovate those properties to the town. He reminded that the measure requires no upfront costs from the towns or the county but that the profits to the municipalities would be seen later. Interim Administrator Roger LeDuc also spoke to Council regarding the Bailey Bill saying, “I’m very familiar with this bill.” He, too, advised Council that the increased revenue from these properties would not be seen until the end of the rate lock. He went on to tell Council that there are “a lot of nuances” in developing an ordinance based on this bill and recommended Council put together a committee, much like they did when considering changes to the recreation board, who would then work to put an ordinance together to bring back to Council at their February meeting. Council agreed to this suggestion, and Councilmen Rodney Ashcraft and Albert Talbert volunteered to sit on the committee. Shortly after this Council meeting and prior to the committee’s meeting, Interim Administrator LeDuc told The Advertiser that he would be asking the committee for guidance in forming an ordinance, specifically in regards to which towns would like to be included and who would be in charge of overseeing the properties. “I believe it could be very good for the county and the towns,” LeDuc said but reminded, “We can’t force this on the municipalities without their approvals.” On Jan. 11, a committee comprised of the aforementioned Council members, Interim Administrator LeDuc, Trenton Mayor Billy Padgett, Clerk to Council Jennifer Gilley, Sommers Pendarvis, Max Shanks, and Edgefield Mayor Ken Durham met to discuss possible ideas for an ordinance based on the Bailey Bill. Among the issues decided after discussions was that a basic proposal will be presented to Council at their next meeting that will recommend the inclusion of historical properties as being eligible for the tax incentive, not rental or commercial properties. Additionally, the recommended term of the rate lock will be 20 years. This measure will still have to be presented to all three towns in the county to make sure they want to participate in this endeavor. Additionally, this measure will have to follow the normal procedure for an ordinance; three readings and a public hearing. The Advertiser was reminded that Council may also change the ordinance at any point during the three reading process. The Bailey Bill has already been used in Richland County, and examples of its results can be seen in Columbia at the Publix Grocery Store downtown on Gervais Street and at the Sheraton Hotel on Main Street. In an interview with Sarah Ellis for The State, Richland County Assessor John Cloyd said, “If we didn’t have the Bailey Bill, maybe [properties] would disappear from the tax rolls.” Allowing that revenues may be affected initially due to the tax freeze, Cloyd went on to say, “…You gain in the long run by having a modernized building.” As noted, an ordinance based on the Bailey Bill is expected to be presented to Edgefield County Council at their next monthly meeting. That meeting will be Feb. 2 at 6:00 at the Council’s Chambers.