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Flowery Branch: Hotel-motel tax gets first OK

POSTED: August 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch City Manager Bill Andrew already sees how new dollars from a proposed hotel-motel tax would benefit the city.

The town has just one hotel, Hampton Inn and Suites, which is under construction on Holland Dam Road at Spout Springs Road. It is expected to open this fall.

"The point to these funds is to support the city having this hotel with higher occupancy," Andrew told the Flowery Branch City Council Wednesday morning.

"We are actively looking at improving the U-turn at Publix (grocery store) and Stonebridge Village. We have bids out on design for that. And also (the city wants) to improve the Holland Dam Road entrance to the hotel area.

"We want to put in sidewalks there, perhaps some better lighting, obviously better access with traffic in that area to enable the public to access the hotel, stay at the hotel and walk to different restaurants in the area."

The City Council gave its unanimous first approval to the 5 percent tax.

Andrew said he estimates the city could receive $66,000 in revenue this fiscal year from the tax, with about $26,000 of that amount going to the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Those amounts are based on a 60 percent occupancy rate at the 84-room hotel, with a daily rate of $87.

"These numbers are considered conservative," Andrew said.

The area around the new Hampton Inn is growing rapidly.

Restaurants, department stores and other businesses are open or developing at the Stonebridge shopping center across from where the hotel is being built.

In addition, a three-story Habersham Bank branch is nearly complete, and a Walgreens pharmacy and other retail shops are planned east of Hog Mountain Road off Spout Springs Road.

Hotel owner Yogesh Patel said he also believes the Atlanta Falcons headquarters nearby on Atlanta Highway at Hog Mountain will be a draw for his business.

In other business Wednesday, the council gave its final OK to a new historic district, one primarily hugging streets around the downtown area.

The action merges two previous districts into one, cutting out some properties not deemed as historically significant, such as the sewer plant.

The proposal had drawn ire from many town residents and property owners in the planned district, complaining that its regulations represent too much government intrusion. Some have said the city’s zoning laws are adequate in governing properties.

One resident, Peter Pheil of Gainesville Street, spoke at Wednesday’s meeting against the district. He said his home is included in the district while others on his street are not, a violation of his constitutional rights.

"You’ve got to treat me the same as everybody else," Pheil said.

Councilmen Chris Fetterman and Craig Lutz voted against the proposal.

Fetterman, in a previous meeting, had described the district’s creation as "a clear case of government gone wild."

And Lutz, in comments at Wednesday’s meeting, said, "I am personally for a historic district. I just believe that this particular (one) has been drawn to be too encompassing and has too many people in it who don’t want to be in it."

Council members Allen Bryans Sr., Pat Zalewski and Mary Jones voted for the district.

Planning director James Riker said the city will notify residents and property owners in the district of the council’s final action. The city will send out a letter within 30 days, he said.

Also on Wednesday, the council voted to approve a beer and wine license for Shane’s Rib Shack in Stonebridge Village and a beer, wine and distilled spirits license for Lake House Bar and Grill at 5466 McEver Road.



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