Local News

5/15/2013

Camden mulls I-95 tourism complex

By GORDON JACKSON The Brunswick News

WOODBINE -- A planned adventure park in Kingsland, approved earlier by city officials, still needs the blessing of the Camden County Commission and the local school board.

Both have to agree to freezing the property value of the development for more than two decades.

At Tuesday's meeting, county commissioners listened to a presentation by the project manager for the ambitious $355 million project.

County officials wanted to know what financial risk, if any, county taxpayers faced if they agree to approve the project planned off Interstate 95 near exit 3.

Jeremy Mackey, project manager for P&A Engineering, assured elected officials that county taxpayers face no risk if the project is approved, even if it goes out of business after it opens.

The project on a 465-acre site north of GA 40 needs approval by county officials, as well as the local school board, to be eligible for a $102 million community facilities loan that would pay for the infrastructure at the site. Another $8 million in revenue bonds and $225 million in private financing would be used to complete the development.

If approved, the development would pay property taxes at current rates, which would be frozen for up to 25 years. As property values rose, the developer would be able to tax businesses on the site at a higher rate and use the additional money to repay an estimated $30 million of its debt.

If the debt is repaid earlier than 25 years, the city, school board and county would immediately begin collecting taxes on the most recent assessed value of the development, Mackey said.

The project is estimated to create 1,225 jobs and establish Kingsland as a destination for tourists and shoppers in southeast Georgia counties and northeast Florida communities. Though a hotel will be built on site next to a 500-room convention center, Mackey said the development will increase occupancy at all the motels near the site.

"It will help everyone out," he said. "It's looking pretty positive right now."

Mackey said two officials involved with Walt Disney World in Orlando will run the development, currently named Kingsland Adventure Park.

The development will include a 5,000-seat amphitheater, 24-lane bowling alley, nine-screen movie theater, water park, small event stadium, sports district, restaurants, ball fields and lots of other attractions, he said.

He estimated the development could attract as many as 2.1 million visitors a year.

Commissioner Gary Blount asked how the development would be maintained after it opens, saying an amusement park near Valdosta "appears to be in a state of decline" in the past four or five years.

Mackey said plans are to continually add new attractions to generate interest. "You have to do something new and exciting all the time to stay relevant," he said. "We think we have a better location than (Valdosta)."

County officials said they wanted more information about the project before voting to support it, but they expressed hope that everything proceeds as planned.

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County. Contact him at 464-7655.