Tourism Zone Okayed

Published 5:00 pm Thursday, December 22, 2011

PRINCE EDWARD – County supervisors held a series of public hearings at their December 13 meeting and approved ordinances that outline the creation of tourism zones, adoption of a tourism plan, and an ordinance creating a tourism project.

“This is one of the steps that is required to allow the County to access state incentives available through the newly created Virginia Tourism Development Financing program,” County Administrator Wade Bartlett explained prior to the first of the three public hearings.

He detailed the tourism zone would only include two parcels (that would be part of the planned Granite Falls hotel and conference center project south of Farmville), though the zone could be expanded to include other properties.

Bartlett outlined that it would allow the County to receive the incremental tax increase from the sales tax from any activities located with the zone.

State legislators earlier this year established financing for qualified tourism development projects that aims to provide a gap financing mechanism for projects in partnership with developers, localities, financial institutions and the state. The program offers a method of financing to compensate for a shortfall in project funding not to exceed 20 percent of a qualified project's cost. (It was noted that this would be about ten percent.)

For eligible projects (which includes retail, hotels and convention centers), that means one percent of the state sales tax generated by the project matched by an equal amount of local tax revenue, matched by an equal amount from the developer can be used to help pay the debt service on the project.

Bartlett offered that they are recommending the tourism zone include two parcels that would be part of the Granite Falls project if it moves forward.

“This will not cost the County any funds,” Bartlett detailed. “The economic development agreement…will provide the match for the County. And that was always the financing proposal concerning this project. The developer already also has to match that, and that was already in the economic development deal, also. So, basically, what this would provide is that one percent, which is approximately $100,000 a year…”

The tourism plan was provided in format by the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

“While it is rare that the board of supervisors is asked to codify a plan, that's what the code of Virginia requires in this case,” detailed Assistant County Administrator Sarah Puckett. “So the plan and its attachments are part of the process for accessing the Virginia Tourism Development financing program.”

There were no public comments and the board approved the plan.

Supervisors also held a public hearing and approved an ordinance authorizing a tourism project, specifically identifying the proposed Granite Falls project, a 176-room hotel spa and conference center on 92 acres of property currently owned by the county just south of Farmville.

Again there were no speakers and the board unanimously approved the ordinance.