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Deal wants to ‘hold firm’ on terms for new Lake Lanier resort well

POSTED: February 3, 2014 11:57 p.m.

A groundwater well project that could serve Lake Lanier Islands resort in South Hall County appears to be mired in property acquisition.

Gov. Nathan Deal, chairman of the State Properties Commission’s governing board, has instructed state officials to “hold firm” on terms in negotiations concerning the property, said Paul Melvin, commission spokesman.

The property is at 4741 Atlanta Highway, south of the Vireo Drive entrance to Waterstone Crossing in Flowery Branch.

“Because this is a pending acquisition, (the commission) will not have any further comment,” Melvin said.

Bill Donohue, executive director of the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, said the authority is waiting for the acquisition to be completed.

“I understand there’s been a number of discussions, but I don’t think, at this point and time, anything has been resolved,” he said. “I don’t know what the issues are and I don’t attend the meetings.”

Gainesville-Hall County Geographical Information Systems shows the property owners as Kent Henderson and Tim Wilbanks, who couldn’t be reached for comment.

In August 2012, the development authority was awarded more than $4.4 million to rehabilitate the well, as part of the Governor’s Water Supply Program, which was launched in January 2011 to help local governments with developing new sources of water supply “adequate to meet future water demand forecasts,” according to the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority’s website.

In the spring of 2013, the development authority’s board of directors approved awarding a $280,000 design contract to develop the well to Gainesville-based Rochester & Associates.

Plans have called for GEFA to buy the land and complete the construction and then lease the facilities back to the development authority, which is responsible for providing administrative oversight of a long-term lease agreement with Lake Lanier Islands Management, a private company operating the resort.

The 1,500-acre resort sits at the end of Ga. 347/Lanier Islands Parkway near Buford.

Plans also have included building a water treatment facility and a 7-mile transmission pipe to connect the well to the islands.

The line will be built “so that Gainesville, Buford or Flowery Branch could tap into the line in the future,” Donohue has said. “The (cities) have expressed a future interest in the well. I don’t think we envision a short-term partnership.”

Projections for the well project included about eight months of construction and the well being operational by September 2014.

“We’ve got the design to the 60-percent place it should be at ... and we’ve recommended routings and all that, so we’re ready to go to implementation as soon as the state can get (the property) acquired,” Donohue said.

There is no particular deadline for the project to get done, “so, from a funding standpoint, I think we’re OK,” he said. “The funds will remain there and be ready to use when we can start (the project).”


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