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Georgia House OKs tax break for tourist site expansions
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ATLANTA — The Georgia House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve a bill that would give a tax break for large expansions of tourist attractions.

The bill is similar to a proposal that was passed by the General Assembly in 2007 but later was vetoed by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Under the proposal, new attractions of more than $25 million or expansion of existing attractions totaling more than $10 million would result in a refund of the sales and use tax of up to 25 percent of the value of the project.

In Hall County, the bill could benefit Lake Lanier Islands, which has a $100 million four-star hotel on the drawing board to replace the former PineIsle Resort.

Under the proposal, the developer of the island hotel would receive a $2.5 million tax refund for up to 10 years.

Shawn Davis, a spokesman for Lake Lanier Islands Management Co., said the bill is good news for the entire state.

"It’s a great piece of legislation for Georgia tourism," Davis said. "If the success of other states is any indication, Georgia will see tourism properties grow significantly as a result."

Davis said the bill, if passed, would cause investments at Lake Lanier Islands to be made in a shorter time frame.

The management company, which leases the islands from the state, is owned by Gwinnett businessman Virgil Williams and his family.

The bill comes too late for Williams’ existing investments, including a major face-lift to the Emerald Pointe Resort and the construction of three luxury lakefront villas. The cost of those projects is about $25 million.

In 2007, Perdue objected to a Senate amendment that included the film industry in the bill. In addition, the governor was concerned that a company could take advantage of the sales tax and statutory incentives offered to all expanding businesses in the state.

The objectionable items were not included in the version passed Thursday by the House.

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