Charles Pointe developers seek tax deal to help pay off
The Exponent Telegram
July 6, 2011
By Matt Harvey
– The developers of Charles Pointe hope to move a step closer Thursday to
completing the proposed $1.4 billion mixed-use, master-planned community.
At 10 a.m. at the County
Courthouse in Clarksburg,
Harrison County commissioners will take public
comments on a new proposed break for developer Genesis Partners.
The idea: As features
are added – such as hotels and other retail establishments – a percentage of
the corresponding consumer sales and service taxes could be used by developers
to pay off new bonds.
The proposal to create the Charles Pointe Economic
Opportunity Development District would allow for the issuance of up to about $400
million in bonds. That’s according to
the approximately 2-inch thick application submitted by Genesis Partners to the
West Virginia Development Office.
Rob Stuart, director of planning and engineering for Genesis
Partners, said the money likely would be drawn down in phases.
“As the taxes are generated, we’ll begin to fund projects,”
County commissioners Bernie Fazzini, Ron Watson and Mike
Romano insist the proposal isn’t a new tax, and indicate references to it as an
“excise tax” conjure up inaccuracies.
The 1,700-acre development still would pay sales tax into
the general fund. But collections above
and beyond the base that’s being paid now would be available to the developers
over perhaps a 20 – or 30-year period, according to documents and officials
Romano and Watson termed the proposal perhaps “another tool
in the toolbox” for development.
A glance at West Virginia Code appears to show one other
place in the sate that has used a similar method. Ohio
County’s “Fort Henry”
economic opportunity development project district comprises 300 contiguous
acres of land.
That county’s commission can “levy a special district excise
tax” for its benefit, according to the code.
The “Fort Henry” project is the site of the
state’s only Cabela’s outdoor goods store.
“Basically what happens, rather than the monies going into
the state coffers, they allow a portion of those monies to come back to the
project to benefit the area where those taxes are generated,” Stuart said.
“It’s really a good tool, … It’s to the benefit of our
communities rather than a statewide thing.
Of course at the end, there’s a windfall to the state. So I think everyone wins in the deal,” Stuart
indicated they want to see what the public has to say.
They also are continuing to study the matter, although
Romano doesn’t believe it puts any county funds in jeopardy. The county’s bond counsel on this project,
Thomas L. Aman Jr., of Steptoe & Johnson, wasn’t available for comment
If commissioners approve a resolution in support of the
opportunity district, the matter goes to the Development Office. A review there takes about 30 days, Stuart said.
If that agency approves the plan, it then would go to the
Legislature, presumably during the session starting in January. But Stuart naturally wouldn’t be opposed to a
special session to address the issue; “that’d put us that much further ahead.”
Stuart also said they believe they have “strong political
support across the board.”
The Charles Pointe development was announced more than a
decade ago, envisioned as a $750 million project at the time. The cost is now about twice that at about
$1.4 billion, according to the application.
What’s been done so far, according to the application: 6.7 miles of utility infrastructure; 2.7
miles of roads and streets; 273,900 square feet of commercial/office space; 149
residential units; 202 hotel rooms; and 15,000-square foot Bridgeport Conference
Some parts of the original plan, including golf, have been
removed. That change was made when the
national trend in 2006 showed more golf courses closing than opening, Stuart
said. Still in place, though are 20
planned miles of recreational trails.
Other ideas have been added.
Stuart said a 130,000 square foot conference/convention center is now
planned that would cater to “more of larger civic uses” but not displace the
A themed “resort-type hotel” also is planned that would have
about 250 rooms, Stuart indicated. Asked
if gambling was planned for that facility, he replied, “not at this time.”
Still in place: A
memorandum of understanding with West
“to work together to kind of create a place for WVU and a presence in this
Genesis President James A. Corton initially had thought, if
the economy held out, that Charles Pointe might be done by now or perhaps
getting close to it. Corton was not
available Tuesday. Stuart said the
economy has had an impact on the project, “but I do think we’ve weathered
The timeline to finish building out now is about 20 years,
Stuart said. And the application cites
figures from a 2004 economic impact projection.
So, how would Stuart answer skeptics who see a lot of empty
spaces still at the development that straddles W.Va. 279?
He acknowledged some people will note that four-lane highway
was completed several years ago and ask, “Where are you at?”
But the land is about 2 miles long and about a mile wide,
and would “pretty much cover the map” if dropped over Charleston, Stuart said.
“People just expect to see things happen faster than reality
might let it happen,” Stuart said. “It
is a massive piece of ground; it will take some time.”
But put in perspective, ‘It’s gone along all right,” he