Stephen Winters, managing director of SRW International LLC, did not return a call from The Daily Tribune News seeking comment when Gov. Sonny Perdue in June vetoed House Bill 1251, but said in a May press conference that plans for the development hinged on the bill's passage. It would have provided incentives to developers via sales tax rebates of 25 percent of those dollars the resort generated for 10 years.
Brown said after the veto he received a call from Winters, who indicated he hopes to build The Falls at Vineyard Mountain on more than 750 acres of land near Emerson.
"He just said he was going to wait for the next governor," Brown said. "He's not giving up. He told me that, that he was coming back. He wants it to be in Bartow County. He likes it down on [Interstate] 75 near the lake and all that."
Winters had pitched the same development in Dawson County, and recently updated his website to reflect his current plans in Bartow.
Published reports indicate some are skeptical of Winters, who did not provide a business card to The Daily Tribune News but introduced an architect and other associates at the impromptu May press conference with Brown and State Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, a sponsor of the legislation. Winters and his companions were visiting the commissioner and his staff to discuss land development entitlement and permitting processes.
On his website, www.srwintl.com, Winters lists a project manager, architectural and engineering firms, and two leisure consulting groups as his team for the project that would have included The Vineyard Mountain Snow Dome or Mount Pegasus, which would be the longest and highest indoor ski dome in the world at 3,000 feet with a 450-foot vertical drop.
"If the governor had signed it and the guy wasn't legitimate, it wouldn't have happened," Brown said. "The state wasn't putting any money in it, the county wasn't. Nobody's giving them anything. It was up to them. They would have had to buy the property from the property owner and then the bill would have allowed them to keep 25 percent of their sales tax."
Brown supported the bill, but Perdue said it would have set a precedent he could not support -- the funding of developments through sales tax rebates. The governor vetoed two previous versions of the bill authored by former Rep. Jeff Lewis of Bartow County.
"It's been the message each time that these kind of things should be taken on a case-by-case basis where the legislature when they budget can see where the impact would be and they can account for that in the budget," governor's spokesman Bert Brantley told The Daily Tribune News in June.
For Brown, the veto was a disappointment. He said the number of jobs the development was expected to bring to Bartow would have been "a huge boost" to a county with double-digit unemployment, adding there likely would have been additional development -- hotels, restaurants and shopping centers -- in the area.
"They would have had to generate the money before they get to keep anything," Brown said. "But the bill wasn't just for the ski resort. There are other things, too. If there was a $100-million investment and a company could generate sales tax, they could keep 25 percent. I think it's a good piece of legislation. [The ski resort] was 2,000 jobs, too, by the way.
"I only talked to [Winters] that one time and I don't even have his number. He called me so if I hear from him, good. If I don't, it's still a good piece of legislation for some other stuff."
The bill would have required a minimum investment of $100 million, and Winters said in May the investment in Phase 1 of the proposed ski resort would have been $1 billion.
Brown would not comment further on other developments that may come to Bartow County if a new legislature and new governor approve the measure.
"The new governor might possibly sign that. I'm optimistic," Brown said. "You're not going to lose anything. That's the way I looked at it. What difference does it make? If you get to keep this 25 percent of the sales tax, you're going to have to give the state and county 75 percent. If [Winters] is legitimate, I don't know. I don't know anything about him but I bet before he could build it, he had to find somebody who was behind it, somebody with some big money.
"That thing needs to pass even if we don't get the ski resort because there could be something else happening."