Lake Lanier Islands May Take Over Local Parks
Three Lake Lanier parks, Big Creek, Shoal Creek and Chestnut Ridge, may be taken over by the Lake Lanier Islands resort if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves.
The Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority voted to ask the corps and the Georgia Board of Natural Resources to approve the request during its monthly meeting Friday at the island’s resort hotel.
Please Note: This was first posted on April 23, 2007.
Gwinnett businessman Virgil Williams, managing owner of the resort, has ambitious plans for Big Creek, Shoal Creek and Chestnut Ridge parks, following discussions with the corps.
Williams, who holds a 50-year lease on the 1,100 acre islands, would also manage the three parks.
Chestnut Ridge, which includes a campground, has been closed due to federal budget restraints. Shoal Creek has been open only during summer months.
“The corps has a park that’s closed,” Williams said. “But it’s developed and equipped for camping, and they can’t afford to open it.”
Williams envisions the 250-acre Shoal Creek park as a possible location for an additional campground for larger recreational vehicles. He said there are few facilities that can accommodate RVs, which are growing in popularity.
The Big Creek park is adjacent to a site that Williams’ children privately acquired with plans to build single-family homes.
“Because we now have the potential to include Big Creek, we may rethink how that’s used,” he said.
He has under contract adjoining property with dry storage for boats and a restaurant building.
Also on Friday, the authority voted for a three-year reduction in a contract with the Gainesville-Hall County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In a 2005 agreement, the panel agreed to give the convention and visitors bureau a 40 percent share of the 6 percent hotel-motel tax levied on the islands.
Under the new agreement, the board will pay it a flat fee during the final three years, beginning July 1.
The authority will pay $150,000 in the first year, $130,000 in the second year and $100,000 in the final year.
In 2006, the tax generated $403,000. The payment to the bureau was $161,000.
Bill Sanders, chairman of the convention and visitors bureau, said his panel has been in negotiations for about two months on a revised agreement.
“We hope it’s good for both of us,” said Sanders, who added that the funds from Lake Lanier Islands represented about 40 percent of the organization’s annual budget.
The authority expressed concerns about the combined promotion of Lake Lanier Islands, along with other Hall County attractions.
“As new hotels and cottages are added, it allows the Williams family and LLIDA to make sure that the money that comes from that goes specifically for Lake Lanier Islands promotion,” said Joni Owens, the authority member who presented the revised plan.
Not all agreed.
Connie Hagler, a Hall County representative on the panel, was troubled that the remaining money would go back to Williams.
“As stewards of the state resource, I’m not sure that’s a proper way to go with our hotel/motel tax dollars,” Hagler said.
In the end, the board voted to approve the change. Sanders said his panel would take up the contract at its next meeting.
The new agreement relieves the convention and visitors bureau of making Lake Lanier Islands more prominent in promotional activities than other Hall County destinations.
Also Friday, the islands authority took the first step in seeking financing for major infrastructure improvements at the resort.
A resolution seeking $33.2 million in revenue bonds was sent to the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission, the state panel that approves bond projects.
Engineering work is under way on a new wastewater treatment plant, estimated to cost $9 million to $12 million. Also on the drawing board is the resurfacing of roads through the resort.
Original story: https://www.gainesvilletimes.com/news/stories/20070421/localnews/168993.shtml