ROCK HILL, S.C. — In a controversial vote on Friday, transportation leaders in Rock Hill earmarked more than $10 million in public funds to finish work on a road that would’ve connected Interstate 77 to the Carolina Panthers practice facility that ultimately never got done.
One county official told Channel 9′s Tina Terry he was stunned that the transportation committee would even take up the matter because the practice facility and the land it sits on have been caught up in a foreclosure battle since the summer.
“This should have been tabled, this clearly should have been tabled in my eyes,” said Tom Audette of the York County Council.
Members of the Rock Hill-Fort Mill Area Transportation Study Committee made the vote to help pay for work on Palmetto Parkway and Hiram Way. Both of those roads are needed to make I-77′s exit 81 fully operational.
The exit is a new interchange that was originally designed to help drivers connect with the Panthers’ practice facility. But the real estate company owned by Panthers Owner David Tepper ended up filing for bankruptcy in June, leading to a legal battle between the company, the city of Rock Hill, and York County.
“As part of the deal with the Panthers, they were to pave these roads,” Audette said. “So to move over taxpayer money onto a private property where that owner should have paved those roads is not right.”
But at the same time, Rock Hill Mayor John Gettys and other local leaders said it’s their responsibility to make sure the interchange doesn’t end up becoming a road to nowhere.
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The committee voted in support of an amended motion, saying the money will only be used if either York County or the city of Rock Hill get the title to the land caught up in the foreclosure proceedings.
“Today gives us a chance to start that process because after the ownership is resolved, we won’t then be behind the curve,” said Gettys. “Because that interchange will be ready in the spring, and we need to make sure it’s fully operational when it opens.”
The city and York County are seeking to recover millions of dollars through that foreclosure process. The next hearing in that case is slated for mid-December.
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