The Douglas County Board of Commissioners gave unanimous approval at Tuesday’s meeting to a new agreement that is expected to get a long-discussed Westin Hotel and conference center at Foxhall Resort off the ground later this year.
District 4 Commissioner Ann Jones Guider, who represents the area around Foxhall in south Douglas, supported the new deal. Guider cast the lone vote against a previous deal approved by the BOC in 2016 that ultimately fell through due to issues with funding.
“The new proposed agreement provides a much stronger benefit package for not only District 4 citizens but all of Douglas County as a whole,” Guider said in a prepared statement after the meeting. “All local sales tax will be paid to the county and schools as opposed to the old 2016 agreement where the sales tax went to Foxhall to cover bonded indebtedness. Overall, the details in this year’s agreement provide a stronger financial (package) which outweighs the old agreement and all of Douglas County should be proud of what the Board of Commissioners accomplished.”
The project is expected to generate $49 million in fiscal impact over 15 years — $32 million for the county and $17 million for the school system, according to Chris Pumphrey, executive director of the Development Authority of Douglas County.
Pumphrey told the Sentinel last month Foxhall plans to break ground on the hotel and conference center in the second or third quarter of 2022.
The project now covers 50 acres at the resort and includes a 250-room Westin Hotel, 200 unbranded rooms in villas, a 50,000-square-feet conference center, a 20,000-square-feet clubhouse, two restaurants, two bars, a market and light retail, according to a letter Pumphrey wrote to the BOC last month.
Pumphrey also stressed in the letter that Foxhall will not be annexed into the city of Chattahoochee Hills, a prospect that had been entertained last year.
Under the new deal approved Tuesday, the development authority will provide a 15-year tax abatement to Foxhall and redirect hotel/motel taxes generated by the project to cover debt service and offset marketing costs.
“We’ve heard a lot of the concerns,” Pumphrey told the Sentinel last month. “So it’s trying to find that middle ground to where the project still is a significant economic generator for the county and that the project also gets a sufficient tax break to where they can sell those bonds in the bond market. I think that’s what we have.”
Pumphrey said the way the new proposed abatement is structured, Foxhall will be exempt from property taxes for the first five years. In the sixth year, property taxes will start being phased in until year 16, when Foxhall will pay 100% of property taxes.
Under the old deal approved in 2016, Foxhall was to have received a 30-year property tax abatement on 95 acres, Pumphrey said.
Pumphrey said there is precedent for a 15-year abatement, noting that Google was recently given a 15-year abatement by the BOC. Switch was given three 10-year abatements for its data center facilities, Pumphrey said.
Under the new deal, roads built by Foxhall will remain private and be maintained by the resort instead of the roads becoming public and being maintained by the county like in the old deal.
All local sales tax will be paid to the county and school system under the new deal. In the 2016 deal, sales tax generated by the development was designated to cover bond indebtedness.
Both the 2016 deal and current deal would involve the development authority issuing bonds for the conference center. However, in the new deal, non-recourse revenue bonds with no financial obligation to county taxpayers are being used, Pumphrey told commissioners in the letter.
Commission Chairman Romona Jackson Jones was not in office when the previous deal was approved. She praised the “boost” to the county’s economy expected from the development in a prepared statement issued after the meeting.
“I believe this new deal will bring a significant economic boost to Douglas County that will leave citizens proud of our special community,” Jones said. “The Douglas County Development Authority agreement will provide a 15-year tax abatement to Foxhall Development and redirect hotel/motel taxes generated by the Westin Hotel and conference center project to cover debt and marketing costs.”
Jones added, “Douglas County’s economic development is expected to continue to flourish and benefit our region.”