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Council passes Kalahari package
Kalahari package passes


Date published: 4/23/2008

BY EMILY BATTLE

The city ordinances necessary to distribute tax-based incentives to Kalahari Resorts in Celebrate Virginia got the votes of six Fredericksburg City Council members last night.

Councilwoman Debby Girvan cast the only dissenting vote on the two measures.

One creates a 68-acre tax-increment financing district, including the 49 acres Kalahari intends to buy, along with the current Expo Center property.

The other enacts a city ordinance creating a special Kalahari Resorts tourism zone and allowing the city to offer 20-year-incentive deals, per state law, in that zone.

Girvan enumerated a long list of things she didn't like about the agreement--including the fact that Kalahari must meet no revenue threshold before it begins collecting its incentives, and the fact that the city couldn't get any of the incentive money to go into roads and other public infrastructure projects.

She also questioned the project's feasibility and worried what would happen if Kalahari failed.

"If a business comes here and closes, in my opinion it's worse than if it never opened at all," she said.

Councilman Marvin Dixon said there are things he doesn't like about the Kalahari deal--the 20-year term and the fact that the incentives district includes the Expo Center among them--but he thinks Kalahari will be a crucial economic engine for the city, and those points weren't "deal-breakers."

The vote came after council members heard an hour of comment from the public on the performance agreement, which calls for the city to rebate 47.5 percent of Kalahari's taxes over 20 years of the opening of the $260 million project.

Among the things people were concerned about were the amount of incentives, the fact that the draft of the performance agreement wasn't made public until hours before the public hearing started April 8 and the animated video sign that Kalahari plans to build near Interstate 95.

The performance agreement includes a provision that Fredericksburg will "favorably consider" any needed approvals, including a height variance, for such a sign.


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