By Kirk Luther, Publisher
It’s a huge loss for the residents and for those that could have profited nicely from the Town of Irmo’s pursuit of an entertainment area ‘main street’. Due to public opposition from the nearby land owners that quest has been abandoned.
A perfect storm was created when the US government granted trillions of dollars (ARPA) to cities and towns across the country to boost the economy and keep things running smoothly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This money is allowed to be spent on infrastructure. Building roads and creating a commerce district falls under that category. Town leaders saw an opportunity to benefit the town’s people and create a drawing card for Irmo’s growth all on the government’s bill.
By not communicating with the town the owners of the vacant uninhabited parcels of land around the Community Park of Irmo have now lost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Owners have argued that their property has been handed down from generation to generation and that they are hoping to reap some sort of generational wealth by hanging on to it. The Town of Irmo was willing to offer well above appraised values for the property and if invested properly those monies could turn into hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the years.
That is generational wealth. A one hundred fifty thousand dollar investment for 25 years would be worth more than $700,000 if left untouched. That estimate is based on investments from the past 20 years so it is a real figure. As it is now, that land has no value to any investors but the town. The town could even work out a lease option or a way to share the profits from the land as it is sold to developers coming into the main street area. But communication has to be there and because of political differences, it will never come. A great divide opened at the last council meeting and all the concerned parties were well coached in their comments to the council in saying that they were not interested in selling and to take their names off the list.
The 12 parcels that were being looked at by the town are along Moseley Street adds up to a little under 9 acres and only one of the owners had bothered to approach the town council prior to things getting out of hand. All the other objections were coming from persons living near those properties or elsewhere. Even someone from the opposite side of the park said they didn’t want a main street.
Original estimates were to purchase these vacant lots, some landlocked, for around half a million dollars or more giving the land owners a much higher price than what the parcels are worth.
The town will find another way to spend the ARPA money and, unfortunately, it won’t be for a main street.
That train has left the station. On the bright side, the mayor didn’t get his wish to prohibit the town from ever revisiting the project. His resolution to prevent the town from ever bringing it up again failed for a lack of a second. That means that if the town ever decides to look at it again there could still be hope for these landowners. However, the ARPA money will be gone and who knows what condition the economy will be in at that time.
For now and maybe even tomorrow there will be no change. But soon enough the changes will come. They always do.