Granite Falls Project Gets Extended Time

Published 4:28 pm Thursday, December 2, 2010

PRINCE EDWARD – County supervisors agreed to extend the closing date for possible sale of county property to Prince Edward Development.

The site, which is just south of the County's school complex, is being considered for a hotel, conference and training centers. The deadline, approaching in the coming weeks, was pushed to a January 16, 2012 closing date.

“We do not have another individual that's interested in buying the property,” Economic Development Director Sharon Carney told the board.

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Robert Fowler, of Prince Edward Development, which plans to develop the hotel site, outlined plans to have 176 rooms and suites, a concierge lounge, 75-seat restaurant, bar, lounge, billiards/card room, full service spa with reception with retail, hair and nail salon, outdoor terraces with fire pits, indoor pool with whirlpool spa and fitness center, a heated featured outdoor pool with spa, slide, waterfall, tanning shelf, beach entry and lap area, a stocked lake and walking trails.

“…We're expecting 50 percent of the demand for this hotel to come from group business,” Fowler said. “This is currently people who are not coming to Prince Edward County for any reason right now. They're gonna be attracted as a result of the conference center. So this is not your leisure, this is not your transient, this is not… university or college related traffic that you're currently getting a piece of.”

He outlined that Crestline Hotels and Resorts has agreed to manage the facility, noting that they manage 66 hotels, 24 of which he said were in Virginia.

The Granite Falls Conference Center, Fowler detailed, would have 11,000 square feet of flexible indoor function space, 8,400 square feet of indoor pre-function space, a 4,731 square foot main ballroom with seating for 325 and a 1,778 square foot junior ballroom with seating for 125, restaurant/banquet kitchen, the Heartland Regional Training Center with three classrooms, computer lab, culinary arts kitchen, administrative area and student lockers, two outdoor function areas and a lakeside pavilion with amphitheater seating 150.

The training center has one confirmed participating community college, SVCC, and two others that have been invited, and Longwood and Hampden-Sydney College are also expected to participate. Course offerings are expected in general education, hospitality and culinary arts. (Eighty percent of the courses, Fowler speculated, would be general education courses offered by SVCC.)

Overall, he projected a total investment of $49 million, that 100 individuals/day would be employed during the 16 months of construction, and that they would employ 96 full time equivalent individuals at stabilized operations.

While Fowler noted that a lot of the pieces of financing have been lined up for the project, he added that they're still waiting “for that main hotel loan. And at this stage, we're at the point where we're waiting for people to call and arrange for site visits. But we have three or four that are interested-seriously interested in providing the main hotel loan.”

Fowler also detailed a list of other remaining tasks, including executing the final contracts with Crestline and Marriott and the special food and beverage tax agreements with the Granite Falls CDA as well as applying for Community Development Block Grant and USDA grant (which come up in the spring).

“The only thing we're asking you to extend is the date on when we have to purchase the land,” Fowler said.

They still plan for a substantial completion date at the end of 2012.

The board, following Fowler's presentation, approved the extension of the purchase and grant agreement and authorized the county administrator to sign necessary documents. The action mirrors that of the IDA; their extension, however, was subject to the board's approval.

Date Change

Supervisors held a public hearing (with no speakers) and agreed to change County code moving the deadline for filing annual returns of taxable tangible personal property, machinery and tools and merchants' capital from May 1 to March 1.

Prospect Depot

County supervisors approved a resolution of support for the Prospect Historical Society's efforts in seeking a VDOT Enhancement Grant. The Society is expected to seek $215,000, which is projected to be enough funds to complete the reconstruction of the Prospect depot. (The Society has previously secured $313,000 in grant funds.)

“This is a great opportunity,” cited Economic Development Director Sharon Carney. “This particular round of grants is not open for any new applications-only existing projects.”

She also detailed that it's “pretty much their last chance to go forward and ask for any money on this project.”

The grant application deadline is December 1 and the historical society has 30 percent completed plans for the project; it was anticipated that 90 percent plans would be ready by the end of December.

The only potential hiccup is that the grant application requires that the County accept responsibility for maintenance and operating cost of any structure erected with VDOT grant funds. However, Ms. Carney noted the Society has forged a “very good relationship” with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which will use it as a “trail head,” DCR has agreed to assume that responsibility. If the Society no longer wanted to operate it or wanted to abandon the project, it would revert to the DCR.

“So that is technically their sponsor,” Ms. Carney said.

While there would be matching funds needed for the grant, no County funds are expected to be required.

“Right now, what we're doing is just asking for the authority to apply and then once it comes down it won't be executed until we meet all these requirements-make sure that DCR is signed up, make sure the match is there…So we have another chance to bring this back to the board to execute it,” County Administrator Wade Bartlett said.

The board approved the resolution and agreed to provide staff to help the Society apply. (They had requested the continued assistance of Ms. Carney.)

Highway Matters

Supervisors agreed to table the issue of seeking highway revenue sharing funds. The County can seek up to $1 million in the funds, which they must match for road projects.

In other highway news, a written report in the board's information packet from VDOT presented an update on specific projects. Included in the report:

*A speed study on Giles Road (or Rt. 745) concluded a reduced speed limit is warranted. It qualifies for a 25 mph reduced speed zone.

*Traffic engineering reviews were conducted and Watch For Children signs will be installed 200 feet east of Rt. 751 on Route 685 for eastbound traffic and 100 feet of Rt. 655 on Rt. 685 for westbound traffic. In addition a Watch For Children signs will also be placed 100 feet east of Rt. 685 on Rt. 655 for eastbound traffic and 100 feet west of Rt. 626 on Rt. 655 for westbound traffic.

*An evaluation of Rt. 1002 (or Atkinson Avenue) from Rt. 692 to the dead end qualifies for a 25 mph speed limit. The change has been posted.

*A section of Green Bay Road was evaluated to determine if the speed limit can be reduced. There was no recommended change in the speed limit, but curve signs with a 30 mph advisory speed are to be placed 1.10 miles south of Rt. 614 for northbound traffic and .85 miles south of Rt. 614 for southbound traffic.

Supervisors also agreed, following a request from school officials, to seek an updated traffic study on Rt. 628 near the school, adding a ramp exiting U. S. Rt. 460 entering U. S. Route 15.

The County has been weighing an alternate route that would connect on U. S. Route 15 South to Rt. 628 just below the school bus garage allowing traffic to flow around the school rather than through it as well as access that does not flow through the school to the Granite Falls hotel project.

The planned addition, which would be about eight tenths of a mile, is planned to offer a two-lane state road with a grass median.

In Other News…

*With an issue yet to be resolved in the court on what is to become of funds collected as a special assessment (from a rate that is above the County's tax levy and does not include County funds) on property in the Poplar Hill CDA district for 2009, the Board (with Vice Chairman Howard Simpson abstaining) followed County Attorney James R. Ennis' advice to turn over the $39,171 collected pending a ruling from court.

*The board approved a consent agenda that included the refund of an erroneous assessment ($283.76) and a schedule where dog owners can get their pets vaccinated against rabies and purchase dog tags.

Rabies clinics will be held at area fire departments on January 8 with the first starting at 10 a.m. in Rice, followed by noon at Prospect, 2 p.m. in Darlington Heights, and 4 p.m. in Meherrin.

*Bartlett presented an estimate of $2,800 for repairs in the leaky atrium area of the courthouse roof. That could be paid from the County's maintenance account.

*Supervisors appropriated $5,000 for work to the SCOPE building. The funds will enable the purchase of folding tables and chairs, window coverings, tile for both restrooms and formica for kitchen counters. The board also authorized Bartlett to dispose of any old, unusable old equipment at the building.

*A peddler's license fee committee met and advised that action be delayed indefinitely. The board collectively agreed.