Some South Hall cities are looking to increase their hotel-motel tax rates to match the rates of Gainesville and other Georgia cities.
In January, the Oakwood City Council requested legislation to raise the city’s rate from 5% to 8%. The Flowery Branch City Council voted Thursday to request legislation for its own increase, also from 5% to 8%. The Braselton Town Council is set to vote on a 5% to 8% increase at its Feb. 10 meeting.
The increases will have to be approved by the Georgia General Assembly, which signed off last year on Gainesville’s increase from 6% to 8%. State law allows municipalities and counties to set the rate at up to 8%, and several other Georgia communities have adopted that rate, including Gwinnett County, Dawson County, Dahlonega, Helen and Cleveland.
Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said the county does not have plans to adjust its 5% rate.
A hotel-motel tax increase would provide more funding for the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau, which promotes tourism in Hall.
The bureau receives 40% of Flowery Branch’s hotel-motel tax funds, and City Manager Bill Andrew said South Hall growth and upcoming downtown improvements are expected to boost local tourism.
“Just with the natural population increases in South Hall, we’re just having more people wanting to enjoy the downtown events,” Andrew said. “With us building the new Main Street development, we’re anticipating some open spaces with a farmer’s market and a park, a new streetscape and hopefully outdoor restaurant seating. We want to support the vibrant activity on Main Street with more and better-supported downtown events.”
The block parties in downtown Flowery Branch, which have had themes including “Gilmore Girls” and “Star Wars,” have brought larger crowds than anticipated, Andrew said. The visitors bureau sponsors and organizes the block parties.
Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier CVB, said the bureau wants to create more of a “sense of place” in South Hall communities and events like the block parties help with that goal.
“The new taxes collected will help further some exciting tourism product development projects we have on the horizon, creating new opportunities for visitors and increasing Hall County's share of Georgia's tourism economy,” Dickson said.
Braselton has its own visitors bureau and does not send any hotel-motel tax funds to the Lake Lanier CVB, Town Manager Jennifer Scott said. The town had considered raising its hotel-motel tax rate for a few years but wanted to stay comparable with neighboring cities. Now, Braselton can join the others with an 8% rate that can be used to promote tourism efforts, Scott said.
The city of Gainesville also has its own convention and visitors bureau that receives funds from the hotel-motel tax. Gainesville hopes to use the extra dollars from its tax increase for improvements at Lake Lanier Olympic Park off Clarks Bridge Road.
The Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, which oversees the Lake Lanier Islands resort in South Hall, has a 6% tax at the resort, according to Bill Donohue, the executive director of the development authority. Lake Lanier Islands, the private partner that operates the resort, has expressed interest in raising it to 8%, and the development authority supports the request, Donohue said. The development authority is working with counsel to determine the process for changing the rate.