Known as the Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, this contractual agreement has entered a draft Emerson City Manager Kevin McBurnett feels confident presenting to the council.
"We feel good about this draft of the MOU. From where we started to where we are today, we just reached a time where we feel it was time to put it in front of the council. This MOU has come a long way, and we feel like it is a commitment of all the parties," McBurnett said.
Wednesday's work session focused solely on the LakePoint project, encompassing more than 1,300 acres situated in Emerson between U.S. 41 and Interstate 75 with the construction of baseball, soccer and lacrosse fields in addition to plans for lodging, retail, restaurants and entertainment establishments within the facility.
Earlier Wednesday morning, Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown authorized the MOU contingent upon a final draft. The draft to be voted on by Emerson contains details concerning water and sewer rates, hotel/motel tax, recreational properties and additional areas.
Included in the draft is an ad valorem property tax abatement on a taxable bond approved by the Bartow County Development Authority for an amount not to exceed $500 million. An incremental scale is used for property taxes; although the city currently does not impose property tax, if they do a base amount of $10,000 will be levied. An assessed value on capital investments will be abated for 10 years, rising annually by 10 percent.
Included in this agreement is a development threshold regarding the rate of construction to prorate the tax fees. If an investment of $50 million is not made by 2014, the prorate clause kicks in. However, the abatement schedule is not affected and will still sunset on Dec. 31, 2027, at which point 100 percent of assessed value will be taxable, lending motivation for a quick build-out by LakePoint.
Water and sewer lines will be constructed by LakePoint at which time Emerson must "endeavor to provide" adequate capacity at 1.85 million gallons a day for each system. Emerson has obtained an intergovernmental agreement from the city of Cartersville for additional sewer capacity and has been guaranteed water from Bartow County. Emerson, however, will continue to seek out solutions for meeting those requirements independently.
In recent years, Emerson passed a 5 percent hotel/motel tax although the city does not have any such accommodations -- yet. As the complex grows to include 16 Major League Baseball-sized fields, 12 soccer and lacrosse fields and a 100,000-square-foot indoor sports complex, there will also be hotel rooms and Emerson expects to receive a portion of that revenue. The MOU seen Wednesday will allow LakePoint and the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau the opportunity to share in some of those revenues as well. Hotel-motel taxes collected will be split between Emerson, receiving 60 percent, and the CVB, receiving 40 percent.
Until Jan. 1, 2028, Emerson will divide a portion of the 60 percent with LakePoint for reimbursement of investment related to project infrastructure. Emerson will receive an initial $300,000 annually from the hotel/motel tax, after which time any additional revenue will split evenly between Emerson and LakePoint.
Another concession, if possible, will include two Lake Allatoona recreational properties. One property is leased by Emerson from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, known as the City of Emerson Recreational Property, or EMREC. The other property eyed by LakePoint is Bartow Carver Park, leased from the corps by Bartow County. Both properties, contingent on Corps of Engineer allowances, will be leased or subleased to LakePoint for recreational improvements to include, but not limited to, boat ramps, marinas, fishing villages, restaurants, shops, playgrounds, an RV park and a rowing facility for use by the public and Kennesaw State University.
These and other issues were discussed Wednesday in preparation for a vote at Emerson's July 25 regular meeting. Mayor Al Pallone noted that the "gap years" before revenue is seen, during which time construction will occur, will be a tough time for the city with a lot of costs hereto unexpected.
McBurnett said that many of those costs will be incurred through increased administrative duties due to licensing and permitting, watershed protection, erosion control and the need for additional police protection.
"We've noted some additional costs that would be required of us," McBurnett said. "We see those first two years, because we will not generate one penny from this development, as being a little rough on us."
The Emerson City Council will meet again Monday, July 25, at 7 p.m. at city hall.