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Supervisors Consider TOT Tax Break For Proposed Oakhurst Conference Center

MADERA COUNTY – As part of their “On the Road” series of board meetings, the Madera County Board of Supervisors will be holding their October regular meeting at the Oakhurst Community Center on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 5:30 p.m.

Of special interest to mountain area residents will be a public hearing on a proposed new concept Hotel, Corporate Training & Conference Center and Outdoor Team Building Course which developers Zero Capital, LLC, want to build on 20+ acres along Highway 41 on the north end of Oakhurst.

The Board is considering a revenue sharing agreement with the developer that will return 50 percent of the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) collected by the facility over a 25 year period as an economic incentive to develop the project. The total TOT generated during that time frame is estimated by the developer at about $17 million.

The proposed project includes two hotels – one 50 rooms and another at least 70 rooms – and an adjacent corporate training center and team-building facility.

The Conference and Corporate Training Center is expected to be at least 10,000 square feet and include meeting spaces and banquet halls capable of hosting meetings of at least 500 people.

The Team Building Facility is currently planned, at a minimum, to include zip lines, challenge courses, 10 rope courses, a scavenger hunt course, free fall simulator, giant swing, and archery field, as well as an indoor facility for team-building activities.

There has already been push-back from those who object to the creation of more traffic congestion, further strain on fire and law enforcement, and setting a precedent that is unfair to existing and any future lodging businesses by the 50 percent TOT revenue sharing proposal.

Madera County Chief Administrative Officer Eric Fleming says the project encourages investment in Oakhurst, and is a way to incentivize the development of “what we think is a very unique project.”

As for the 50 percent break on TOT, Fleming says it’s all “new money.”

“It’s TOT tax that would never have been generated if we didn’t find a way to encourage this project to happen,” he says. “We wouldn’t be rebating any existing dollars, but rather trying to incentivize the creation of new dollars. By tying incentive payments to the generation of TOT, this acts both as an incentive to the developer for the project’s success, while limiting risk to the County.”

Fleming also notes that the project would create new local jobs, generate property tax, boost the collection of sales tax through more visitor spending, and generate more TOT at other hotels.

“We believe this would be really good for the area. The team-building and corporate training part of the project will have the capacity to hold 500 people at a time, which goes above and beyond the 120 or so rooms of the new hotels. That will help fill other rooms in Oakhurst, and provide an economic benefit to the community through ancillary spending.”

In order for the revenue sharing to trigger, Fleming says the entire facility has to be built out and operating as detailed in the agreement, and the developers will have to show proof that the assessed value is more than $20 million.

Fleming says the developers already own the Hounds Tooth Inn in Oakhurst, and are very familiar with developing hotels, but are excited about this unique concept and think it’s perfect for the area.

As to the exact location of the project, developers are looking at parcels on the north end of town. A list of the proposed parcels will be included in an exhibit to the agreement that will be considered for approval during the Oct. 16 Board meeting in Oakhurst.

If the developer acquires all of the land they are currently considering, the project will sit on 26.2 acres along Highway 41, says Sean Kirkpatrick, Senior Administrative Analyst for Madera County. The project would need to begin within one year of approval and be completed within five years.

Everyone wishing to learn more about the proposed project and have their voices heard is invited to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting at the Oakhurst Community Center on Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 5:30 p.m. for more details.

As for the three hotels that are currently being built at a snail’s pace by a different developer on the west side of Highway 41 between Hartwell Road and Winding Way – there is nothing new to report, other than “the work is proceeding.”

For the Staff recommendation to the Board on this project, click here and scroll to page 118.

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