TIEC requests changes to zoning ordinance, development agreement

Published 10:00 pm Friday, February 17, 2017

Proposal to allow 1,500 hotel rooms is on the table

MILL SPRING – Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) has requested some changes to the county’s zoning ordinance and development agreement, including asking for a new equestrian commercial district, to change the building height from 50 to 60 feet and to add additional property purchased to the development agreement.

There is also a proposal to change the number of hotel rooms from the previous 450 rooms to 1,500 rooms.

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The Polk County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting on Monday, Feb. 13 and asked TIEC for other changes to the terms, including for TIEC to add a backup water source to the property and for TIEC to provide the lot and build a public safety building.

Commissioners held a closed session meeting on Monday then came back into open session and discussed the proposed changes with TIEC’s Sharon Decker, chief operating officer, and Jeff Brown, vice president of facilities. 

Polk County Planner Cathy Ruth asked Decker how many hotel rooms TIEC will need. Decker at first said 1,200 but later said to be safe, to allow 1,500 over the next 20 years. Decker said 1,500 rooms are not currently planned but could be over the next 20 years.

Ruth also asked when TIEC thinks the first building permit for hotels will be needed. Brown said it could be as soon as mid-March.

On the backup water supply, county attorney Jana Berg said the question has come up with respect to back up water in case of an emergency. County manager Marche Pittman said about a month ago the county had to shut the water down and the restaurants and hotel were out of water.

“We don’t want that to happen again,” Pittman said.

Brown said the most economical way would be to have a loop system for the water since currently the water just comes from one direction. TIEC receives water from Inman-Campobello Water District (ICWD).

Berg asked if that was something TIEC may be interested in for their own benefit.

Brown said he thought so and that TIEC as well as the county would benefit from that.

Brown said hopefully the county could sponsor a grant and TIEC would be happy to take the lead on applying for a grant.

“We’re talking about three miles worth of water line,” Brown said.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson asked what if a grant is obtained but there’s a match.

Decker said normally grants of that nature require a 10 percent match. She said the county has to participate in these grants for them to be viable.

Decker and Brown said they would let the county know prior to its next meeting some estimates on a back up water line and if there are any grants available.

A few years ago the county helped TIEC get a grant to get its current water system, and TIEC paid for the match.

Other discussions this week were regarding the public safety building. Previous decisions were that TIEC would provide two acres, then give the county $250,000 to build the facility to be used for emergency services near the facility such as police, fire and EMS. The proposed agreement is now for TIEC to provide the two acres and construct the building prior to the county taking ownership of the building.

The current proposal is for TIEC to supply the facility by July 2019.

Decker also told commissioners that TIEC is creating a year-round resort, including providing spaces for conferences. She said TIEC is not building anything for the upcoming 2018 World Equestrian Games that cannot be used for other services later.

Commissioners are meeting on Monday, Feb. 20 where they plan to discuss the proposed changes and set public hearings on the changes.

Berg said hopefully everyone can agree to what the development agreement needs to cover and commissioners can set a public hearing.

She said the water line will be the biggest issue and hopefully there’s a grant and TIEC will do what they did before and reimburse the county’s match.

Commissioner Myron Yoder said he appreciates TIEC’s time and workability.

“We’re all in this together,” said Decker.

Gasperson said he wants to continue to have a collaborative working spirit with TIEC. He said TIEC can well imagine that commissioners get a range of opinions from residents.

The county’s next meeting on Monday, Feb. 20 begins at 7 p.m. in the Womack building in Columbus.  (The agenda starts on page 14.)