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Bill could boost Kalahari page 2
Bills making their way through General Assembly could boost Kalahari Resorts project

Date published: 2/16/2011


The developer would return the sales tax to the locality and state years down the road after the project is refinanced or the 20 percent gap in financing is repaid.

Not everyone sees the merits of the bill. Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania County, voted against James' bill, saying: "I'm not sure it's a good idea to start dedicating public tax revenues to pay private debts."

Del. Bobby Orrock, R-Caroline County, also voted against the bill. He said he doesn't object to localities providing portions of local tax revenues as incentives, but he doesn't think the state should do so.

"I have heartburn with the fact that it cuts into state tax revenues," Orrock said.

Kalahari and the Fredericksburg City Council have already entered into a performance agreement that would let the resort get back almost half the taxes it pays the city for 20 years if it meets revenue targets. Because the new bill would allow for a similar rebate, Kalahari's performance agreement may have to be amended.

Even if the bill passes, it doesn't guarantee that the Kalahari project would move forward. Kalahari owner Todd Nelson, who could not be reached for comment, has scoured the globe looking for financing and to this point hasn't found anything with terms to his liking.

Nelson remains committed to the project, however, said Tom Ballantine, president of the Ballantine Management Group, which runs the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center. Ballantine speaks with Nelson regularly.

Kalahari's plans call for the resort to be physically attached to the expo center. Kalahari may buy the expo center, Ballantine said, but at the very least the two sides would enter into some sort of partnership agreement.

Ballantine said business has been improving at the expo center so far this year, but he said partnering with Kalahari would give it a big boost.

Kalahari plans to double the amount of space there, which would help attract national conventions. Having more entertainment options and hotel rooms, especially ones that connect with the convention space, would also help.

"Kalahari is very good for the city of Fredericksburg, for us and for tourism in general," Ballantine said.

--Staff reporter Chelyen Davis contributed to this report.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com

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