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Incentive packages become routine
Kalahari is just the latest of many incentive deals

Date published: 1/13/2008


Two months ago, when Kalahari Resorts first announced it was coming to Fredericksburg, Mayor Tom Tomzak stood on a stage in the Fredericksburg Expo and Convention Center and said, "I'd rather have 75 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing."

That line of reasoning is pretty common when governments enter into incentives deals to lure private businesses by waiving some of their taxes or fees, as the city has for Kalahari.

While the Kalahari incentives package that was announced this week appears to be the largest such package an area local government has offered from a strict dollar standpoint, it's certainly not the first.

Spotsylvania County has used similar deals to boost two different projects on State Route 3. Elsewhere in the state, different forms of local government incentives have been used.


Under the terms of the incentives deal the city released this week, Fredericksburg would return 47.5 percent of Kalahari's local tax payments to the resort on a quarterly basis for 20 years.

The resort has estimated that it will generate $5.9 million a year in new city taxes if it can stay 75 percent occupied and get an average room rate of $220 a night.

If Kalahari hits that $5.9 million mark for the year, the city would get $3.1 million and Kalahari would get $2.8 million.

"Even at $3 million, they are still our single largest taxpayer in the city of Fredericksburg," Economic Development Director Kevin Gullette said.

And in a city with a $79 million budget, they'd be single-handedly boosting revenues by nearly 4 percent.


In 2006, Spotsylvania County supervisors approved a $17.1 million incentives package to get the owner of Spotsylvania Towne Centre to make several improvements.

For 20 years from the time the renovated mall is 70 percent occupied, the county is to return to the mall's owner half of the new annual local sales tax revenue generated by the expansions to the mall.

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WHAT: Public hearing on Kalahari incentives WHEN: Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. WHERE: City Council chambers in City Hall, 715 Princess Anne St.

In addition to the Kalahari deal, the city has also used forms of incentives and public-private partnerships on the following projects: SLAVERY MUSEUM: In 2002, the city agreed to give the museum $1 million. That money was to be spent on "governmental services," per the agreement between the city and the museum. Museum staff reported that the money was spent on promotions, educational projects, programs, offices and various engineering and environmental plans. It was paid back to the city, with interest, by the landowners in Celebrate Virginia, through a special tax district. That district did not include the Slavery Museum, which is tax-exempt. INFRASTRUCTURE: The roads and utilities infrastructure in Celebrate Virginia was built by the Silver Cos., using a Community Development Authority. That allowed Silver to access tax-free bonds to build $25 million worth of public infrastructure in the development. The debt is being paid back by the landowners in the complex through a special tax district, not by the city. WEGMANS: Last summer the council approved a deal to waive $1.7 million in business license taxes over 10 years to lure a Wegmans grocer to Celebrate Virginia. EXPO CENTER: Council members are considering granting the Expo Center $225,000 a year over three years, if the center meets certain benchmarks. The grant is intended to help the private center compete with publicly financed convention centers in the state. The council will discuss this at its Jan. 22 meeting.

NOT JUST TAXES In addition to the 20-year agreement to return 47.5 percent of the resort's local taxes, the Kalahari incentives package also includes: FEE WAIVERS: The city will waive $3.35 million in upfront development fees for the project. WATER AND SEWER RATES: Kalahari will pay reduced water and sewer rates that basically amount to the city's cost of providing those services to the resort.