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Unveiling of ‘Project Vino’ just a few weeks away

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By Chris Sardelli

Lancaster County residents are only weeks away from discovering the identity of a potential multi-million-dollar project that could bring hundreds of jobs here. 

The project, still known only by its code name “Project Vino,” could potentially bring $218 million in investment and 500 jobs, according to limited information released late last month by Lancaster County Economic Development Corp. President Keith Tunnell.

But the shroud of secrecy covering the project could be soon unveiled, now that Lancaster County Council recently approved second reading of two ordinances related to the company, during a specially called meeting Sept. 30. 

The votes were 5-0 for the two ordinances, one authorizing the issuance of a special source revenue bond not to exceed $7.7 million, and the other authorizing a fee-in-lieu of tax agreement between the county and company. 

Councilmen Larry McCullough and Larry Honeycutt were not present during the meeting, as both were on previously scheduled trips. 

Unlike the first readings, Councilman Bob Bundy voted to approve the ordinances. 

Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis said the revenue credit ordinance is a little unusual compared to past economic development projects. 

“Project Vino is different because they’ll get the bond, buy stuff up front with it and instead of getting revenue credits, the revenue goes to pay the bond off,” Willis said. “In order to get the bond, they have to go in front of the State Budget and Control Board. But the end result for the company and the taxpayers is the same, it’s just a different means.”

Willis said the identity of the company will be released prior to final reading of the ordinances, though he was unsure when final reading will be held.

“We had been planning to have third reading at council’s Oct. 14 meeting, though it may not happen then, and could be pushed off to Oct. 21, since there are still many legal hoops and hurdles to go through,” Willis said Tuesday, Oct. 8. “The lawyers say the paperwork is not yet in its final form, though that could change. So we’ll see when it will be ready.”

If council does not hear final reading on Oct. 14, Willis said council could choose to call a special meeting to follow council’s already scheduled, and unrelated, workshop on Oct. 21. 

Slew of meetings 

Though Lancaster County Council has spent significant time on the economic development project, they have also been busy with a slew of other meetings, with topics ranging from land use discussions to vehicle policies to nepotism. 

The meetings council has already held, or plan to hold, and their topics include:

– A management advisory committee meeting was held Tuesday, Oct. 8, to discuss the possibility of revising the county’s personnel policy involving nepotism. Willis said the committee, which includes council members Charlene McGriff, Brian Carnes and Steve Harper, has two options. They can decide to keep the current policy, which mirrors state law, or could craft a stricter policy. 

Willis said the committee will also investigate a separate issue on whether it’s necessary to hire an in-house county attorney. Willis said that issue was suggested by County Attorney Mike Ey, of McNair Law Firm, because of the growing number of general legal questions and planning questions the county has dealt with this year. 

Results of Tuesday’s meeting were not available by The Lancaster News’ deadline.

– A joint workshop between council and the county’s Planning Commission was held Oct. 8 to discuss the revision of the county’s comprehensive plan, along with members of the Catawba Regional Council of Governments. A special executive session was also scheduled to follow the workshop, with council expected to discuss Project Vino. Results of the meeting were not available Tuesday. 

– A vehicle policy review committee meeting is 4:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, to review the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office’s fleet of vehicles. Willis said the intent for the committee, made up of Councilmen Bob Bundy, Brian Carnes and Jack Estridge, is to review the use of each vehicle, their appropriateness and if any county vehicles can be used for multiple jobs. 

–  A regularly scheduled council meeting is 6:30 p.m. Oct. 14. 

– The county’s first general workshop session is 6 p.m. Oct. 21. Willis said the workshops, which were recently created, will allow council to discuss “hot topics” prior to votes on related issues during council meetings. 

“This is a chance for council, in an informal setting, to talk about an issue and hash it out,” Willis said. “They are beneficial because there are no votes, but they will have the discussion so that later they can craft ordinances to suit what the council needs.”

Willis said the first workshop will involve a discussion of land use in the Panhandle, coming on the heels of debates about B-3 zoning and the prevalence of gas stations in Indian Land. 

 

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416