By Brian Knox | Wise County Messenger
Mayor Martin Woodruff called Monday a moment two years in the making, but the vision for the moment goes back two decades.
The Decatur City Council Monday approved the city’s Economic Development Corp. issuance of sales tax revenue bonds as part of the project to build a hotel next to the Decatur Civic Center.
The EDC board last week gave its approval to the sale of the bonds, which EDC Director Thom Lambert said would be used for off-site infrastructure such as extension of utilities like water, sewer, gas and electricity to the hotel as well as the construction of a parking lot.
Last week the EDC board also extended the initial period study with Gatehouse Capital, the developer and majority owner of the hotel, to ensure it’s in place through the closing of the bond sale.
City Manager Brett Shannon said he recently spoke with the Baytown assistant city manager, who is starting a project with Gatehouse and seeking information on the agreements used by the city of Decatur.
“He was talking about three months, and I said, ‘I certainly hope your project goes a little smoother than ours,” Shannon said at last week’s EDC meeting. “Every time we knocked one mole down, three more popped up in the Whack-a-Mole game.”
Woodruff said the EDC director and board of directors began this journey a couple of years ago not because there aren’t enough hotels in Decatur, but because a hotel was needed on that property to help support the Civic Center and help it reach its potential as an economic development engine.
“As long as we’ve got on-site lodging, more multi-day events can be scheduled,” he said.
Woodruff also explained that when land for the civic center was purchased nearly 20 years ago, extra acreage around the center was purchased with the idea a hotel would eventually be built at the location. He added that the long-range purpose of the civic center was to be an economic development engine for the community that would attract people from outside the community into Decatur.
But when the location did not attract a hotel during the first 15 years of the civic center’s operation, the city and EDC entered into an agreement with developer Gatehouse Capital to build a 107-room Marriott Fairfield Inn and Suites just east of the facility.
According to agreements signed earlier this year, the EDC will provide a total of $2.7 million in incentives through predevelopment fees and infrastructure improvements that will be repaid by the developer through 20 percent of the hotel’s profits for the first 10 years and 35 percent for the next 10 years until the incentives are paid back.
The hotel will receive up to $500,000 in sales tax rebates it pays over a 10-year period. The city will rebate 100 percent of the hotel occupancy tax paid by the hotel for five years and rebate 45 percent for five years after that.
Council Member Cary Bohn said he was concerned after “hearing a lot of pushback on this issue” in the community, saying he was concerned the project might tie up the EDC on other potential projects in the future.
The council voted 5-1 in favor of issuing the revenue bonds with Bohn casting the lone opposing vote.
View original Wise County Messenger Article.