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City County approves letter of intent with Kalahari
|VIDEO: Residents speak out on Kalahari|
Date published: 1/23/2008
A letter of intent that lays out the terms of an incentives agreement offered to Kalahari Resorts for a water park hotel it wants to build in Celebrate Virginia got support from six of seven Fredericksburg City Council members last night.
The vote means that Fredericksburg officials will use the basic business terms of the letter to work out a performance agreement for an incentive deal that would waive about $3.5 million in upfront fees for the more than $200 million project, and return 47.5 percent of Kalahari's local taxes to it over 20 years once its resort is up and running.
Before their vote, council members heard an hour's worth of comments from the public that both praised and castigated the Kalahari deal.
Many of those comments came from the same people who spoke at last week's three-hour public hearing on Kalahari.
Once it came time for the council to act, the sole objector to the vote for the letter of intent was Councilwoman Debby Girvan.
"A vote on this is inappropriate at this time. There has not been enough due diligence," said Girvan, who was one of four council members who spent two days earlier this month at Kalahari's resort in Sandusky, Ohio.
All six of her colleagues felt otherwise.
Councilman Matt Kelly said those who oppose Kalahari because they think it will detract from the city's historic character have to realize that the city needs new sources of money to pay its growing bills.
"If you want to protect Fredericksburg you have got to give us the opportunity to raise the revenue to do it," he said. "We can't afford to sit here and say something better will come."
Councilman Marvin Dixon likened Kalahari President Todd Nelson to "a suitor," and said Fredericksburg would be unwise to reject him.
"I think that anything we do that would cause this suitor to leave would be a shame and a disappointment, and I certainly wouldn't want my fingerprints on any part of that," he said.
Girvan raised a variety of objections to the vote for the letter of intent.