Despite premature promotional material, which suggests it’s a done deal, the public-private partnership with Foxhall Resort & Sporting Club will be on the Douglas County Board of Commissioners’ agenda in coming weeks.
The county is awaiting results of the independent financial study, Commission Chairman Tom Worthan said on Thursday.
“It won’t be on the agenda for next week,” Worthan said.
In a meeting earlier this month, the Development Authority of Douglas County announced that the developer planned to move ahead with construction of 250 villas at Foxhall without any involvement from the government for 18 months.
However, now it appears that the BOC will be asked at a meeting in the near future to commit to financial incentives that wouldn’t take effect until 18 months down the road.
Commissioner Ann Jones Guider, who represents the district in which Foxhall is located, said the public should be given plenty of notice before the BOC takes a vote on the resolution to provide incentives. However, many people are under the impression that the vote has already happened.
“There’s just been so much misunderstanding about it right now,” Guider said of the status of the project at Foxhall, which also includes a 200-room Westin Hotel, a conference center and more. “A lot of people thought (the public-private partnership) had already been approved but had been put off for 18 months. That’s not the case. It has not been approved. If it is approved, the bonds would be delayed for 18 months, supposedly. But it has not been approved.”
Chris Pumphrey, executive director of the DADC, said the development authority is waiting for the OK from the BOC to bring a new resolution that would abate property taxes for 100 acres for the length term of the bonds, which is 30 years. If presented and approved, the resolution would also rebate hotel/motel taxes for the length term of the bond, funneling about 4.5 percent toward debt service and 3.5 percent to a county-operated nonprofit.
“We’re not asking (commissioners) to approve bonds,” Pumphrey said. “The DADC would approve the bonds.”
Should commissioners hear and approve the resolution, the money from hotel/motel taxes paid to the county would then be handed over to DADC to pay back the bonds on behalf of Foxhall.
In an earlier iteration of the project, which was rejected by commissioners in December, the county was asked to pledge 1-mill to back contract revenue bonds. Currently, the plan is to use Industrial Revenue Bonds. The DADC approved a resolution earlier this month in support of issuing $40 million in bonds, which would be in the name of the DADC, on behalf of Foxhall.
“The way it is structured is that there’s no backing of the bonds in the sense that the county is guaranteeing them,” Pumphrey said. “If you say Douglas County is providing the bonds, then that could give the public the impression that the bonds issued from the Douglas County government, which are typically backed by the Douglas County government, are being issued (for Foxhall) and that is not the case.”
Recently, Southern States Regional Center (SSRC) published some promotional materials for the new Westin Hotel and Foxhall project online. SSRC, the underwriter, is a licensed regional center for EB-5, a federal program which is a source of capital funding for projects involving immigrant investors such as Foxhall. It is the agent between the investors and Foxhall, the recipient of the proceeds.
“Foxhall’s relationship with the local government and community is a great relationship,” said Brook Cole, president and co-chief executive officer of Foxhall, in a promotional video published to YouTube about three weeks ago. “We have been working well with one another in a collaborative effort over the last seven years to develop the comprehensive plan for Foxhall and working towards the opening of the Foxhall Westin Resort lodge and villas in the coming years.”
As Cole speaks, a caption at the bottom of the screen reads: “Douglas County providing $40 Million in Development Authority Bonds for the Foxhall Westin Project.”
Attempts to reach Bruce Nicely, founder of SSRC, for comment Thursday were unsuccessful.
“I’m certain it is in anticipation of the county approving the incentive,” Pumphrey said of the video. “The inducement resolution we did as a development authority was saying we support the bond issuance of the $40 million. … The county is not providing the $40 million bonds.”
A program SSRC published on slideshare.net on March 27 reads: “Douglas County, GA has issued $40 million in economic development bonds.”
Guider said she’s seen the video.
“I was kind of taken aback. It sounds like a done deal, doesn’t it ?” Guider said. “I think it’s very presumptuous and I don’t understand why (SSRC) would put a film like that out to the public before the vote has even come up.”