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Aiken GOP Places Project Jackson on Primary Ballot

New Augusta GreenJackets ballparkA primary ballot in February will include Project Jackson, as the Aiken GOP Executive Committee is putting the question to North Augusta voters. 

Project Jackson is the development that includes a proposed ballpark for the Augusta GreenJackets (Low A; Sally League). In recent months, North Augusta officials have to been working to wrap up certain details related to the project, potentially clearing the way for the ballpark to open in 2018.

The GOP Executive Committee, however, says it is trying to leverage more public input into the process. The organization has decided to put the proposal on its upcoming primary ballot, which will be up for consideration in February.

Technically, this is an advisory ballot measure, meaning that it is non-binding for North Augusta officials. Aiken County GOP officials say they are using the question as a way for voters to express their opinions about whether North Augusta should move forward with a plan to use tax increment financing (TIF) to cover its roughly $61 million share of the proposal. For his part, North Augusta mayor Lark Jones sounds unfazed. More from the Aiken Standard:

Jane Page Thompson, the Aiken County Executive Committeewoman to the state party, told the Aiken Standard Friday it is a partisan party ballot, and the ballot question will ask Republican voters if North Augusta City Council should fund the TIF for the stadium without a ballot referendum to the voters.

Thompson said the impetus for the ballot question stemmed from a past Aiken Standard article, where at the time Mayor Lark Jones said they were going to have “extensive public input” on Project Jackson from County Council, the School Board and North Augusta voters themselves.

Jones responded to the news of the ballot question Friday.

“It shows a lack of appreciation of their elected City Council of North Augusta, who all consider themselves Republicans. They had no contact with us, they didn’t ask us what our feeling was,” Jones said. “I’m not afraid of it. The only thing that would concern me is that I don’t think a referendum in the Republican primary would be representative of the entire city of North Augusta because historically only about 15 percent of the registered voters vote in the Republican primary. So we’ve got 18,000 registered voters in North Augusta and (about) 3,000 people vote. Well, if all of them voted for Project Jackson or all of them voted against Project Jackson, would that still be representative?”

The project has been in the works for years, facing some opposition along the way. In a previous lawsuit, North Augusta resident Stephen Donohue sued the city over its establishment of a TIF district for the project and challenged the use of private sessions in ballpark discussions. The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of the TIF in 2015, allowing the project to move forward.

Along with the ballpark for the GreenJackets, Project Jackson is expected to include amenities such as residences, lodging, entertainment destinations, offices, retail, and green spaces. It is slated to be constructed in phases.

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