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Legislature OKs Gainesville takeover of Lake Lanier Olympic Park, hotel-motel tax increase
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The Olympic Park Boathouse on Lake Lanier in Gainesville, pictured Feb. 24, 2018. - photo by David Barnes

The state legislature has approved the city of Gainesville’s requests to annex Lake Lanier Olympic Park and to increase the city’s hotel-motel tax from 6% to 8%.

The Senate approved the proposals late Tuesday, the last day of the legislative session. The House of Representatives had approved the park annexation on March 28 and the tax increase on March 26.

All of Hall’s state representatives supported both measures. State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, voted in favor of both, while State Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, who represents part of Hall, did not vote either time.

Gainesville hopes to use the additional revenue from the hotel-motel tax increase to fund improvements at the park, including new restrooms, a pavilion and renovations at the boathouse.

“We are very appreciative of our Hall County delegation for supporting our local legislative efforts in regards to the future plans for Lake Lanier Olympic Park,” City Manager Bryan Lackey said in an email Wednesday.

Hall County and Gainesville had been jointly operating the park, which hosted rowing and paddling events during the 1996 Summer Olympics. With the annexation, the county will step away from its role and Gainesville will take over.

Gainesville has made about $800,000 to $900,000 from the hotel-motel tax annually for the past few years. The charge, which is added to costs for rooms at hotels and motels in the city, is mostly used to fund the Gainesville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Gainesville City Council approved the increase on March 19, but the change needed state approval. The last time the city increased the hotel-motel tax was in 2001, when it went from 5% to 6%.