News & Press
Douglas County experienced tremendous housing growth and subsequent foreclosures during the recession that would have stressed other communities to the brink. A commitment to good fiscal management by the present administration of Douglas County and ongoing wins by the Douglas County Economic Development Authority have both maintained the quality of services and infrastructure and minimized any significant tax increases.
Cost of Community Services (COCS) is a ratio that compares how many dollars’ worth of local government services are demanded for each dollar collected. This ratio should us residential housing can actually be a net drain on local government budgets if the value of the home is not equal to or greater than the amount of services received by the local government. This ratio improves with an increase in home value and for other types of land use such as commercial and industrial.
These ratios also help explain how development authorities can create more value for your mils without raising the millage rate. New commercial investment creates higher value for the mil and taking some of the burden off residential taxpayers. That is the goal of all development authority projects, including Foxhall.
Douglas County is at a crossroads where it is necessary to look into the future and contemplate what residents want to see in education, amenities, government services, housing, jobs, and overall quality of life. How will Douglas County continue to balance providing services to residential households, maintain millage rates, and control growth?
The Westin Foxhall Project is about planning to make Douglas County a destination for families, tourism, corporate investment, jobs and entertainment, all while maintaining the natural beauty and serene landscape that brought people here in the first place.
Douglas County can learn from Public-Private Partnerships of other communities and have access to more tools, experts and financing options than previous projects. Douglas County must portray to the State of Georgia and the Southeastern United States that we are organized, eager, and equipped to welcome good development and investment.
Given that Douglas County has never embarked on a project like the Westin Foxhall Project (a hotel or a Public-Private Partnership), the Development Authority consulted experts who are among the very best subject matter experts in their fields. These experts addressed concerns, changed plans to accommodate objections and provided unbiased neutral assessment and guidance.
- Mark Woodworth – President of PKF Hospitality Research, widely considered to be one of the foremost consultants in the hospitality industry
- Charles Whatley – Managing Director for UrbanIS USA, provides economic development, finance, and real estate advisory services for Public-Private Partnerships
- Dan McRae – Partner with Seyfarth and Shaw LLP, leads the finance team for Public-Private Partnerships and is widely considered an expert in the field of Finance and Economic Development
- Cheryl Strickland – Underwriter with Stifel Nicolaus, specialty focus on development projects
Douglas County has led the way in stimulating cooperation and planning on an unprecedented scale in Georgia by bringing together the property owners and jurisdictions along the South Fulton Parkway/Capps Ferry Road Corridor. Through the cooperation to create a comprehensive development strategy, this corridor has earned a new name, “Georgia’s Aerotropolis Corridor”, which will quickly earn a new reputation as the very best planned use of land in metro Atlanta.
The vision for the corridor is to maintain the natural beauty and forest, develop behind the trees, and maintain the “hill country” appeal. Other developments, such as Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills and Technology Park Atlanta in Peachtree Corners, provide glimpses of the Westin Foxhall Project but our project will be reflective of the needs and wants of Douglas County in terms of development.
The Facts about the Westin Foxhall Project:
- Foxhall Resort and Sporting Club is 1100 acres
- The Westin Resort will be developed on 95 of those acres
- 200 Rooms
- 125 Villas equaling 250 rooms
- Conference Center
- Road and Sewer Infrastructure not only for the Westin Foxhall Project but also to open up the basin for future planned development
- The Westin Resort will be developed on 95 of those acres
- Various Funding Sources
- EB-5 Private Capital Investment – approximately $89 million
- Bond Investors – approximately $35-$40 million
- Foxhall Property Owner specifically for Westin Project– approximately $25 million (total investment of $50 million into Foxhall as a whole)
- PILOT Tax Incentive on the 95 acres
- Rebate of hotel/motel taxes collected only on the Westin Hotel portion of Foxhall (95 acres)
It is important to note the taxpayers of Douglas County are in no way obligated to pay any amount towards debt service if the project does not succeed as expected.
Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Westin Foxhall Project
1. Can a luxury hotel and executive housing succeed in Douglas County?
Yes. A luxury hotel and executive housing can be successful in Douglas County. In terms of a luxury hotel, it is essential to remember that Douglas County is 25 minutes away from the World’s Busiest and Most Efficient Airport and Foxhall has a direct route to the airport via Capps Ferry Road and South Fulton Parkway. In regards to executive housing, Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills is 8.9 miles from the Foxhall property and is selling 2 bedroom/2.5 bath condos and cottages for $400,000-$600,000 and rental rates for lofts average $2000/month. To put the impact of Serenbe to Chattahoochee Hills in perspective, Serenbe represents 1% of the landmass of Chattahoochee Hills but contributes 1/3 of the tax digest. Douglas County can plan and build strategically to bring revenue while minimizing the impact on the natural beauty of the landscape. Serenbe proves it.
2. Would Douglas County taxpayers be on the hook if the project fails?
No. Any mention of Douglas County taxpayers being financially liable for the project if it is not successful is absolutely false. There have been several different plans concerning the Westin Foxhall project and at one time the proposal called for Douglas County backed bonds. However, that proposal was replaced by the current plan which includes the Douglas County Economic Development Authority issuing Industrial Revenue Bonds which are NOT obligation bonds backed by Douglas County or the Development Authority. It may be confusing because the Development Authority will hold title to the property while on the Tax Incentive Plan, but Douglas County is in no way financial obligated to pay any debts on the project if it is a failure because the county has no financial capital investment in the project.
3. There has been discussion of Foxhall being annexed into Chattahoochee Hills. Could this happen?
The 95 acres that will be on the Tax Incentive Plan will remain in unincorporated Douglas County and per the Intergovernmental Agreement cannot be annexed by another municipality for 99 years.
4. Is there concern about the percentage of investment that comes from EB-5 funds?
The EB-5 program was created in 1990 by Congress to stimulate investment in the United States. It allows foreign entrepreneurs to receive permanent residence status in return for investing in projects that create at least 10 permanent jobs per $500,000 of investment. EB-5 funds are not loans and there is no guarantee of return on investment. The percentage of EB-5 funds varies depending on the project. EB-5 projects have increased due to changes in the market and the desire to create quality jobs. The percentage of EB-5 funds in the Westin Foxhall Project is not concerning.
5. Why aspects of the project changed but the cost has not?
The bond is a fixed amount. However, construction costs are rising in metro-Atlanta because of all the multi-family, mixed-use, and two stadium construction projects. The number of projects in the region has created a shortage of skilled labor and an increase in concrete prices. Adjustments will be made to stay within budget and any adjustments made will not adversely affect the project as underwritten.
6. What are the benefits to Douglas County residents?
Tax Revenue is a huge benefit. While it is true that the Westin Foxhall Project received a Tax Incentive Plan on the 95 acres where the hotel is located within the 1100 acres of the Foxhall property there are additional taxes that will be generated from this project.
- Property Taxes on the remaining 1005 acres not included in the Tax Incentive Plan. With the development of the Westin Hotel, the assessed value of the remaining 1005 acres is likely to increase and therefore increase the amount of property taxes paid.
- Sales Taxes generated from the goods and services sold by the Westin Hotel (restaurant, amenities, etc.) in addition to the sales taxes already generated by Foxhall at its current state. Conservative estimates are a net gain of $96 million to Douglas County over the course of the Tax Incentive Plan (includes SPLOST, ESPLOST, and Sales Tax).
- Capital Investment of $154,000,000 private capital
- Infrastructure paid for by this project opens up the basin around Capps Ferry Road and Highway 5 for retail, hotel, higher education, and corporate investment.
- Jobs! 260 permanent employees with an annual payroll of $9.1 million.