County approves lease with Healthcare Foundation

A positive agreement has been reached for Chester County to lease the former Nourse car dealership property on Interstate 77 from the Chester Healthcare Foundation. The agreement would provide a space for the county’s economic development office which is currently housed at the York Technical College Chester campus located off S.C. 9.

Speculation had circulated all week that the council would accept this agreement but the deal was officially sealed Friday morning with a 5 to 1 council vote. Councilman Alex Oliphant cast the dissenting vote and explained that he is “not adamantly opposed “to this agreement and will support the decision now that the vote has been decided.

“Why did I oppose it,” Oliphant asked, “I think the timing was off. I think we have some greater needs, but even in saying that, I don’t think Chester County is going to get hurt by this. I think they might get rewarded.”

Chester County Attorney Joanie Winters outlined the terms of the lease agreement prior to the council vote. The terms of the 24-month lease begin Jan. 1, 2011 between Chester County and the Chester Healthcare Foundation. The county will pay $7,500 per month to the foundation. The county may exercise an option to purchase the property at the end of two years with the monthly lease applied to the purchase price of $1.8 million. During the time that the county occupies the space, they are responsible for maintaining insurance on the building and for maintenance of the property.

Prior to the vote, Oliphant asked what happens after two years if the county decides to not exercise its option to purchase the Nourse property from the foundation. Currently, the county’s economic development office at York Technical College is available to the county rent-free.

“Once we leave there, that’s that?,” Oliphant asked.

“I see no back track to York Tech,” County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey responded.

Oliphant says the premise of the deal as presented prior to the council vote was that it would attract more industry to Chester, but he’s not so sure of that, he said. He does, however, support the efforts of Karlisa Parker, the county’s economic development director, he added.

“Having Karlisa out there is an absolute plus for us, but it wasn’t a necessity,” Oliphant said. ”It is what it is. I’ll do everything I can to make it a success now that it’s happened.”

Councilman Archie Lucas referred to the purchase by the Healthcare Foundation and the lease to the county as “ a win-win situation.”

“I can’t see how it can be a loser,” Lucas said.

After the council vote, there were smiles throughout the room from about 25 concerned leaders from throughout the county. A brief press conference was held and more facts of the lease agreement were revealed.

Economic Development Director Karlisa Parker said, “the intention is to purchase this property from the Healthcare Foundation.”

The economic development office will partner with the Olde English Tourism District and both will use space at the property located just off Interstate 77 at exit 65.

“This site will give a sense of place upon arriving in Chester County,” Parker said.

Dan Peach of the Healthcare Foundation called this “an excellent situation for everyone concerned.”

Parker explained that the long-range vision for this property includes a convention center, a site for local high schools to hold proms and a central location for county high school graduations. It would also serve as a multi-functional space for professional and business meetings offering stages and podiums, she said.

A couple of the greatest assets of this site is its visibility and accessibility near the interstate, Parker said. “It’s a great marketing tool that’s free.” she said. “More people will choose Chester.”

Bill Bundy, president of the Chester Healthcare Foundation, who helped spearhead the purchase of the property and lease agreement to the county, said the foundation is “Happy to be working with the county.” Bundy shared what he believes is the future potential of what the new location can bring to Chester County.

“I see exit 65 as another Dave Lyle Boulevard,” Bundy said referring to the “gateway” into the City of Rock Hill. “We are happy to be able to purchase the property and we are pleased with the lease.”

Jane Scarboro of the Olde English District Tourism Commission said that for years her agency desired to be near the interstate.

“We are excited about the possibilities this presents,” she said. “

Mike Enoch, the new chair of the Chester Development Association (CDA) says he backs this decision “100 percent.”

“We are going to do all we can to see economic development flourish in Chester County,” he said.

By Denyse Middleton, Staff Reporter with The News & Reporter