Fredericksburg’s $61 Million Waterpark Subsidy

When last we visited the Kalahari water park project in Fredericksburg (see “Kalahari and the Politics of Interstate Interchanges“), the all-consuming issue was who would pay to build an interchange at Interstate 95 to serve the water park and the rest of the massive Celebrate Virginia project.

Now controversy is focusing on the enormous tax breaks the City of Fredericksburg has granted Kalahari developer. Emily Battle at the Free Lance-Star has the details:

Fredericksburg would give back nearly half of the local taxes paid by Kalahari Resorts as part of a 20-year, $61 million incentives package that helped convince the Wisconsin-based company to build a water park hotel and convention center in the Celebrate Virginia tourism complex.

The agreement calls for the city to waive $3.35 million in up-front development fees for the project. The bulk of that is a waiver of the roughly $3.2 million in water and sewer availability fees Kalahari would have to pay to connect to the city’s utility system. In addition to fee waivers, the deal calls for the city to return 47.5 percent of the local tax revenues that Kalahari generates to the resort on a quarterly basis for 20 years.

In return, Kalahari will promote Fredericksburg in its marketing, and it will set up 500 square feet of space in its main lobby to promote other attractions in the city. Finally, Kalahari promises that it won’t build any other facilities in Virginia. Ooooo. Water park promotions will drive a lot of traffic to historic downtown, I’m sure. Plus the exclusive Virginia franchise for Kalahari concept. Who knows what that’s worth. Fredericksburg knows how to drive a hard bargain.

Celebrate Virginia and its developer, the Silver Companies, keep popping up on my radar screen. Let’s see… First, there is the matter of those $61 million in tax concessions from the City of Fredericksburg. Then they want the state and feds to pay for a new Interstate interchange to provide access to their property. There’s also those $28 million in tax credits that Silver Companies claimed for putting riverfront land under conservation easements — now disputed by the Department of Taxation.

Questions: Would Celebrate Virginia ever happen in a free-market economy where developers competed on a level playing field? What are the implications of this project for downtown Fredericksburg and all the other interchange-centered development in the Fredericksburg/Stafford/Spotsylvania corridor? While the tax revenues may net out positive for Fredericksburg, what happens to the tax base of neighboring Stafford and Spotsylvania?
(Image credit: Kalahari Resorts.)

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


  1. We don’t know if the resort would break even without the subsidy. If it wouldn’t, then clearly the project would not happen in a free market. If they make money without the subsidy, then all the subsidy did was pad the developers pocket on the threat of building it somewhere other than F’burg.

    But hey, we are getting 900 new housekeeping and lifeguard jobs.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: hearing about the Silver Companies – yes – they are a large COMMERCIAL developer –

    and YES they ARE ALSO a contributing member to the local community – funds to groups, badly needed infrastructure and preserving buffers and sensitive land.

    and yes they are in business to make money… like most developers. I’m a strong critic of BAD development but I give credit to good development.

    but I will say this – I think folks get confused between development that adds rooftops and imposes infrastructure demands verses commercial development that serves the existing rooftops AND as part of the development ADDS the infrastructure that should have been done by the previously-approved rooftop developers.

    If a new interchange is built – you can bet that Silver will pay a major portion of the funds… as they should.

    re: fair and balanced coverage; some examples (excerpts):

    Silver makes big gift to local arts group

    The Silver Cos. are giving $500,000 to an arts organization led by a man who fought hard against Celebrate Virginia nearly 10 years ago.

    Athenaeum is run by Paul Lewis, who helped found Rappahannock Area Grassroots in 1998.

    That group was formed after the City Council approved the rezoning for Celebrate Virginia, and once tried to recall the council members who voted for that rezoning.

    Jud Honaker, president of commercial development for Silver, said the company sees the gift as “an investment in the downtown.”

    “We’ve always felt the success of Celebrate Virginia was dependent on the success of downtown,” Honaker said.

    He said he hopes Athenaeum will use the money to create arts-focused events downtown that will create more activity there in the evenings.


    Silver has agreed to spend more than $7.8 million on transportation improvements, including widening to eight lanes the part of Route 3 in front of the shopping center. Silver also will bear all of the costs of widening Harrison Road between Route 3 and Gordon Road.

    Spotsylvania supervisors last night unanimously approved Silver Cos. rezoning of 182 acres get the county’s first hospital built by late 2009.

    “This is a revenue generator and a quality of life increaser,” said Supervisor Vince Onorato,

    The 7-0 vote gave HCA the go-ahead to begin constructing the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center that adjoins the rezoning.

    Silver Cos. proffers extending Spotsylvania Parkway across Interstate 95 to U.S. 17. Overview Drive will be rerouted to connect to the new Parkway. A new bridge over the interstate, bus stops, Hospital Boulevard, turn-lane improvements to 17 onto Spotsylvania Parkway, bike paths and trails also are part of the proffer package. Silver Cos. promised to have the road improvements that service the hospital completed before doors open.

    “It will add hundreds of new, good-paying jobs to the economy,” he said.

    Riley said the Silver Cos. is not going to add affordable housing to the plans. Riley said Silver Cos. is already proffering $12 million in transportation improvements and the proffers for housing would make the project less economical.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Bloggers here should take note that when the Silver Companies bought a large parcel of land adjacent to I-95 and the Rappahannock River that there was a huge outcry about the rezoning of that land – which was already designated for commercial development in general (as opposed to residential) which if developed as residential would have been highly sought by commuters who want homes near to I-95.

    Instead, the land was commercially developed per the specific desires of the Silver Companies which was done very badly.. because there was a lot of controversy and the decision was rushed and the process not transparent.

    some of the City Council who approved the project lost the next elections and there was and remains a significant number of people who do not care for the “backdoor” approval nor the fact that the land was open farmland and forests.

    The part of the original development that fronted on the roads connecting to I-95 was also done badly. Both the city and VDOT share the blame for not insisting that a better job of access be done.

    The Silver Companies had a bad reputation and they knew it.

    They have worked hard since then to become more responsive to citizens concerns about projects.

    for instance, they go in front of the public BEFORE hearings on their projects and answer citizens pretty honestly AND they make changes based on citizens concerns.

    They’ve done several other significant projects in the area subsequently – and, in every case, they have added expensive and badly needed road infrastructure that has been built either prior to or soon after the development came online.

    They buy the property and they put in a CDA that requires all tenants to pay into the infrastructure repayment fund.

    In other words, these days, the Silver Companies does development “right” and I give major points for doing that.

    In years past – local officials would fall all over themselves to approve development – ANY kind of development WITHOUT requiring road improvements.

    They would always say “the roads are VDOT’s responsibility” – as if that made it okay to go ahead with those developments.

    Silver Companies has set a new standard for development in the Fredericksburg Area.

    They have actually upgraded roads that should have been done by previously approved development and/or has been scheduled for more than a decade by VDOT.

    Now, all developers are expected to have citizens meetings AND they are expected to provide significant transportation improvements as part of their proposal.

    oh.. and they are also expected to pay for an independent traffic analysis…. also

    No improvements – no approvals.

    so .. to finish… they are “accused” of NOT providing high paying jobs….with their developments…

    which is not true as was shown in the regional hospital example…

    but what is it about those not happy with Silver holding them to a higher standard than other developers in the area?

    I note no outcry with respect to other developers plans that their developments are “bad” because they do not offer high paying jobs…

    so why the double standard?

    Silver Companies WOULD be MORE than happy to build Commercial Offices for any major prospective employer LIKE the HCA Hospital…. but they cannot CREATE these jobs themselves – they can only respond to prospective plans of employers…

    If you believe some folks… the Silver Companies should function as the entire areas Economic Development Agency AND never ever offer “incentives”…

    The “low paying jobs” for the Water Park is truly an idiotic argument.

    Hundreds of local area students – both high school and college will be given the opportunity to find employment close to where they live and attend school.

    these are not primary household employment jobs.. but they don’t need to be either…

    By the standard being applied by critics.. we should outlaw all fast food and retail jobs also.. because they are not “high paying”

    … AND .. it is Silver’s fault!!

    excuse my frustration here..

    there IS a time and a place to be opposed to bad development… but my problem is that many of the critics are opposed to any kind of development except the kind that there is not a snowballs chance of in the first place.

    It would be awesome if the Feds decided to put Homeland Security in our area or Oracle or Microsoft would move their operations to our area but where is the connection with realities here?

    We have folks fervently wishing that Fredericksburg would become Portland Oregon.. as if we are not on I-95 and 50 miles from NoVa.

    .. and it’s all the Silver Companies fault if you believe the critics…

    this is the problem from who I call the “whole loaf or no loaf” folks…

  4. Have you been in a fast food or retail joint in Fredericksburg lately? They are all desperate for entry level help. 900 more entry level jobs will just bid up the wage level a bit for all entry level workers as competition for them increases. That isn’t a bad thing, but we aren’t talking life changing pay raises here.

  5. BTW, I don’t have any problem with Silver Co. The discussion is about a specific resort in their development. I hope it’s wildly successful, as none of us wants to see a deserted water park and abandoned convention center as reminders of over reaching the tourism potential of Fredericksburg.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: fast food jobs.. then with a little competition .. perhaps better wages – right?

    re: bribe

    to be honest.. that thought crossed my mind also but methinks 500K is quite a bit for him to “agree”.

    and if it was and he did then so much for his principles.. right?

    as far as a failed convention center and a water park – I would agree -neither one is a sure thing but it’s not like Fredericksburg is in outer gookamonga… and it’s not like people are going to stop using I-95..either

    and it’s not like people who stop at the water park won’t stay and visit the Battlefields and Historic Fredericksburg and/or take a canoe trip on the Rappahannock or play golf or even use Fredericksburg as a base for other tourism…

    this is a vision “thing”.

    this will not turn our badly… it may stumble in the early stages but long term.. it’s healthy growth

    and Celebrate Va has hundreds of more acres available for Homeland Security or DOD or Oracle or whoever… and a developer who has the financial ability to make it happen… and to do it “right” with regard to infrastructure.

    There are many communities who would give their eye teeth to be in the position that Fredericksburg is in… wouldn’t you agree COD?

  7. Most definitely it’s better to be having this debate than be wondering why we can’t get any businesses to move into town.

  8. Matt Kelly Avatar
    Matt Kelly

    Please define “free-market” economy. On researching incentives I read that there are around 1600 different incentive programs across our fruited plains. Take a tour of local economic development sites across the Commonwealth and see how many have applications for providing incentives to locate in their locality. Then go check on the state website on their extensive menu of incentives. Incentivised development has become the norm not the exception.

    As to the comment regarding the size of the incentives package I would again ask that you spend some time looking at other incentives packages where the percentage going back to the developer is 50% or over. I would also point out that, as you imply, Kalahari is not a success, the incentives will not go beyond 10-years as they will be required to invest an additional 25M in the project within the first 10 years. The amount of return is based on the level of their success.

    On the issue of transportation–the IJR for the I-95 off-ramp/parkway is underway as a joint effort between FAMPO, VDOT, FHWA and the Silver Cos. If this project moves forward it will be paid in part by tolls, and yes, financial support from the developer. There are also the many proffers we have already secured knowing that Celebrate VA was going to build out at some time.

    On the water issue—Kalahari’s water usage will not bring the level of water use out of compliance with our agreement with Spotsylvania County. Staff has advised us that we have sufficient capacity for build-out-Kalahari included.

    On the whole issue of infrastructure impact I would point out that development in the surrounding counties over the past five years dwarfs the impact, Kalahari included, of development in the City. Lets have a discussion on what impact that development has had on the City.

    Take some time and read previous stories on Kalahari and re-read the Letter of Intent we are not looking at just “low wage” jobs.

    Currently the City’s two biggest sources of revenue are real estate and sales tax. No explanation need on real estate. Sales tax revenue is down 10%. The City needs to expand its tax base. Well before I was elected to Council it was recognized that efforts should be made to increase tourism as well as higher end business development. With the City now approaching build-out this issue becomes even more critical. We can sit back; as you seem to suggest, and let the “free-market” economy have it way or we can actively go after opportunities to ensure our economic future. To sit back invites disaster.

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    FYI – Mr. Kelly is on Fredericksburg City Council as well as the local MPO – FAMPO.

    “IJR” – Interchange Justification Report – a REQUIRED study before Federal Highway will even consider an interchange… and that report has to be comprehensive in nature to look at ALL of the traffic in the immediate area…

    Every car that exits I-95 and spends money at the Celebrate complexes helps reduce taxes on local taxpayers.

    and the longer they stay, the more money they spend and the more amenities for local residents can be provided without raising taxes.

    Yes.. the whole thing could go sour (not likely) but do folks really think the proper course of action is to tell Kalahari “no thanks.. shuffle on down the road and find somewhere else to be”?

    Remember.. we are not talking about 1500 new homes.. that need schools and commuter road infrastructure and other services… that will not be recovered from real estate taxes alone….

    Turning down COMMERCIAL development is like voting FOR tax increases….

  10. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Matt, Thank you for weighing in with your perspective. Obviously, the issues are very complex. I haven’t had a chance to dig into the details beyond what has been published in the newspaper, so I defer for now to your elucidation of the facts. I hope I have the opportunity one day to dig into this matter in greater detail, for what’s happening here is really quite extraordinary by Virginia standards. Good or bad, pro or con, Celebrate Virginia represents municipal activism in the development process at a level rarely seen in the Commonwealth.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Matt Kelly ran an anti-Silver campaign to win a council seat after 3 previous losses. Then abolished the I-95 interchange to CV & the hospital with his political faction at his first meeting. Anti-Silver activist Paul Lewis is the downtown “art” community?? I guess money can buy just about anything.

  12. Matt Kelly Avatar
    Matt Kelly

    Anonymous 7:08PM —Could you please elaborate on your, “serious economic, environmental and social concerns,” about the Kalahari project. I would like the opportunity to respond to them.

    I share your concern for the historic character of Fredericksburg; but would ask you to consider the reality we face.

    Welcome fellow Californian to the fourth largest and fastest growing part of Virginia. By 2035 the population of this region is going to double to 600,000. Fredericksburg, which will reach about 30,000 in that time, will be in the middle of it. The development pressures we face are not, for the most part, under our control and the impact on the city will not be inconsequential. The need for a 60M+ court facility in the city is being driven by regional growth. The impact of the development in the city, on the other hand, will be dwarfed by the neighboring jurisdictions.

    As an elected official I must ensure that all residents, at any point on the economic spectrum, have an opportunity to enjoy a decent quality of life without placing an undue financial burden on them; while ensuring that the development that helps meet that goal does not overwhelm the unique character of the City that contributes to that quality of life. While the course of development on the western side of I-95 has been the subject of much debate the revenue it has generated for the city has not. Two new schools, new playing fields, a community pool are a few of the projects made possible from that development. While at the same time the tax burden on residence is below that of neighboring jurisdictions.

    When I was elected to Council the mantra was– do what you want west of I-95, the land had been annexed into the city in the early 80s specifically for the purpose of economic development; but do what it takes to protect the unique and historic character of the city east of the interstate. I support that preservation goal.

    In addition to the financial concerns I alluded to in my previous posting there are also issues facing the city regarding its historic character. Over the past year we have worked on a draft Historic Preservation Plan for the entire city that will be brought out for public review this year. The plan calls for having a preservation specialist on staff, acquiring the resources to better enforce the building maintenance code, the consideration of acquiring property, and the enhancement of historic sites. To achieve these goals will require financial resources. The Kalahari project and the development of Celebrate VA will help provide those resources.

    If you have some new ideas on how we can keep Fredericksburg affordable, provide the services expected by residents, and protect the historic character of the city, without development, I am prepared to listen.

    If we protect the historic character of the city heritage tourism will continue to be part of the mix that ensures Fredericksburg’s future– as long as there are people interested in history. I would hope that some wet headed members of the next generation will find there way downtown and become intrigued with our nations past to keep that interest alive.

  13. Greg in a shoddy apartment Avatar
    Greg in a shoddy apartment

    Keep Fredericksburg affordable? What the hell are you talking about Matt Kelly? Where in Fredericksburg is there a place that is affordable? I live in an apartment downturn that hasn’t been improved in probably 50 years, the same painted over wires and plug boxes, same fridge, same crickety floors and airy windows. You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s 900 a month plus utilities, Matt. The cheapest home I found, Matt, was about $250,000, unless I wanted to live in Bragg Hill–you know, the place city folks know is a slum but they do nothing to improve it? You have a boring downtown that closes at 5 pm except for the bars, which are all smoke-filled. You’ve got mold in the courthouse. A maze of retail on Rt. 3 that is the biggest mess of Silver Hell one could ever see. What’s the method to that madness other than save the city’s fiscal rear-end from collapsing in the 90s? You have a Slavery Museum that will never happen because no one is pressure it to happen. And you have shown your obvious tilt in favor of this Water Park before you ever heard one remark from a resident of your city. That’s no government official I want, pal. I prefer before my government body makes a decision, they ask us about it first.
    This “letter of intent” you speak of is just a piece of worthless paper, Matt. Most of the jobs going into this Water Park will be Wal MArt jobs and YOU KNOW IT. There;s nothing worse than a local elected leader spouting bad information. The Kalahari folk even reported that most of the jobs will be your basic typical retail wal mart mcdonalds jobs. That’s nice, Matt. Have you also signed a contract to become their spokesman once this thing is built? I certainly won’t listen to you, Matt, for the facts because your mind is made up. You’re showing up on ever forum that even makes a mention of this facility to protect it and your positions. You have shown up on the FLS web site, you have created a blog and you come here to show your support on the resort and you haven’t even had one public hearing on it yet. Not one.

    Take a breath. Stop telling us to “read more” or read into it, or get the facts. We see what’s happening. And I see right through you.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    AMEN to Greg in the shoddy apartment. Ironic Matt Kelly’s blog is called “Question Everything” He must mean only if it’s something he DOESN’T support. Read between the lines, people. Why the high pressure? Why the rush?

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Can I ask Mr. Bacon if the accusations here that Paul Lewis was ‘essentially bribed’ meet this blog’s standards for avoiding personal attacks? Is it okay to accuse someone of an ethical breach, particularly someone who may not meet the ‘public figure’ standard.

    I know. I’m sure there are fellas out there in the world of genius bloggers who will explain with annoyed certainty exactly what libel and slander laws are about. Maybe you’ll get to tell that to a judge some day.

    But at the very least, making an unsupported accusation is reckless. Not very bright.

  16. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 8:21, I share your concerns about the post you refer to, and I have deleted it. I will explain my reasons in a blog post shortly.

  17. Matt Kelly Avatar
    Matt Kelly

    Greg/Anonymous 8:00AM—As elected officials our ability to directly affect the real estate market is limited. What we can, and are doing, to address the affordability issue is to protect the diverse housing stock in the city, i.e., put a stop to McMansions and keep as many starter homes in play. Institute a rental maintenance program to make sure that rental properties are maintained and provide basic services. There are rental units in the city much worse than yours. We can through the proffer process affect the size, number, of homes in any new development. And finally keep the tax burden on residents as low as possible so they have more disposable income. We can’t regulate price.

    You are correct in saying that the Letter of Intent is worthless. It is what it is—an offer to bring Kalahari here to Fredericksburg and under what terms. There is a lot of negotiating to go to finalize any deal. As for public input that has been an ongoing process.

    I would refer you to the City’s Comprehensive Plan that calls for tourism related development in this area of the city. And before adopting the latest edition of the plan we went through the most extensive public review process that the city has ever done. And as in the previous edition of the Comprehensive Plan—tourism related development is still there. I would also refer you to the Concordia Plan, which was a community proposal for the future development of the city.

    Your post indicates to me that you are relatively new to the area. After the rezoning of the Celebrate VA tract in 1998 the community was concerned that what was allowed under the new zoning was too broad and didn’t limit the Silver Cos. to what they promised—A tourism destination development. We spent from 2002 through 2006 working on a Memorandum of Understanding to ensure that Celebrate VA developed as a tourism destination. The Silver Cos has brought forth proposals for expanding retail development into Celebrate, VA and we have said no.

    As for the specifics of a water park/hotel I would suggest you do a google search because it has been discussed before in relation to this development.

    And the discussions continue on this and other blogs, by phone, and e-mail. And on January 15th there will be a public hearing. So I would take issue with your comment of no public involvement.

    On the jobs front we are actively looking to attract higher end jobs to the city. And if you read the Comprehensive Plan you will find in what areas of the city we are trying to bring that type of development. And just as an aside what do you thing is going to happen to housing prices in the city when we attract these types of jobs to the area?

    Accepting the accusation that I have sold out what have I gotten? Better schools for our children, Fredericksburg’s first community swimming pool, great recreational facilities for city residents and the beginnings of a downtown water front park and trails system.

    I have stated the current financial situation of the city in my first post and some of what we need to do to protect the character of the city in my second. To Greg and Anonymous 8:00AM I would ask you—How do you propose to provide for city services, protect the character of the City, and minimize the financial burden on city residents under the current financial realities? It is easy to criticize, especially anonymously, but you have to put a bit more thought into coming up with answers.

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think there is a big difference between complaining/criticizing something one does not like verses something one thinks is wrong and not in the publics best interest.

    and the big difference is – is it something you personally don’t like – it might mean that others think that “something” is a good thing – the opposite of you.

    That’s NOT valid criticism.

    whereas if something is really not in the public interest, it then becomes fairly easy to issue a bill of particulars ALONG WITH… HOW to fix it

    so I put this standard on ANY activist – whether they be an environmentalist concerned about electric power or a local citizen concerned about how their government functions for citizens or the development community.

    Promote an alternate vision.. tell how to achieve the goals a “better” way..

    step up and contribute…

    lead, follow, or get out of the way

    we already have more than enough whiners…

    If you think the ditch digging is not going well.. pick up a shovel..

  19. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Earlier today, I made the decision to delete a comment in this thread. I rarely delete comments, and when I exercise my power of censorship, I believe I owe readers an explanation.

    The Waterpark Subsidy post engendered a spirited chain of comments, reflecting the intensity of debate and emotion in Fredericksburg over growth-related issues and the players involved. One of those players is the Silver Companies, developer of Celebrate Virginia, where the waterpark would be located. As an example of Silver’s contributions to the community, one commenter took note of a $500,000 gift that the Silver Companies had given the Athenaeum, a not-for-profit organization in downtown that puts on art-related events.

    A reader then responded that Silver “essentially bribed” the head of the Athenaeum, Paul Lewis, into silence — citing Lewis by name. In the past, the commenter wrote, Lewis had been a vocal opponent of Silver development projects.

    Another reader then challenged Bacon’s Rebellion for allowing the comment, asking, “Is it okay to accuse someone of an ethical breach, particularly someone who may not meet the ‘public figure’ standard?”

    That is a legitimate question. To the extent to which Mr. Lewis had previously been a vocal and visible opponent of Silver Companies development projects, I would regard him as a public figure. To the extent that he has retired from the growth debate, I would be inclined to treat him as a private citizen. However, this instance is tricky: If it could be established that Mr. Lewis was a public figure, and if it is a fact that he has ceased criticism of the Silver Companies, I think it is legitimate to ask if there was a quid pro quo. Surely, it is a matter of compelling public interest for people to know if a powerful developer is quieting its opponents by such means. Therefore, I regard the subject as a matter of legitimate inquiry.

    However, the anonymous commenter did not raise the issue as a question, but implied the existence of a quid pro quo without providing any supporting evidence. Such an assertion is potentially defamatory. In the absence of persuasive evidence to support such a charge, I made the decision to delete the comment. Such a serious charge should be aired in print (or online) only after a thorough inquiry into the facts and after Lewis and the Silver Companies were given an opportunity to respond. No such inquiry has taken place, and Lewis and the Silver Companies had no opportunity to express their point of view before the publication of the comment. Under such circumstances, Lewis and the Silvers are entitled to the presumption of innocence.

    I suspect that I will be criticized for having deleted the comment. On the other hand, I would have criticized for doing nothing and leaving the comment in place. Such is the nature of the blogging medium. If Bacon’s Rebellion were a newspaper, this incident never would have occurred — the deleted comment violated journalistic standards and would not have made it into print. I do not filter comments before they are published to this blog; accordingly, my only recourse is to exercise editorial control after the fact. And so I have done.

  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Well, you can’t say people are holding back.

    The author could have avoided a lot of this by just saying something like “In my opinion this looks little different from a bribe.” , then people could brush it off, and he would have made his point.

    As it is, deletion was the right thing to do, for this venue.

  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I agree.. and especially so with anyone who want to make accusations anonymously.

  22. Matt Kelly Avatar
    Matt Kelly

    I agree that consideration should be given to donations, contributions, and gifts to an individual or groups taking a position on, or championing, an issue. However, too often it becomes the only consideration and the merits of the position or proposal fall by the wayside. If you can’t refute the message attack the messenger—seems to be the mantra of today’s political discourse.

  23. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    I live in MK’s ward in the City of
    Fredericksburg. His own neighbor-
    hood, College Heights, needs funds
    to repair sidewalks, streets and
    stormwater management facilities.

    MK has neglected these needs while
    supporting a host of big public
    improvement projects in the city
    while his own neighborhood has not
    been helped and was hit with a tax
    increase in current city budget.

    We have a $7 m garage downtown,
    a $14 m police station, a new
    bus station, a $1 m lot for a
    planned $7.1 m park on the riverfront we have no funds to
    build, etc.

    The city has dipped into cash
    reserves during the last two
    years to meet budget.

    MK is not an advocate of good

  24. rodger provo Avatar
    rodger provo

    Jim Bacon –

    I would encourage you to post the
    story in today’s Free Lance-Star
    about the budget problems in the
    Fredericksburg government that is
    driving their interest in landing
    this project.

  25. Matt Kelly Avatar
    Matt Kelly

    Mr. Provo has made my point –if you can’t take issue with the message go after the messenger.

    I would agree that today’s story in the FLS is, and should be, part of the discussion. As I’ve said in previous posts–The City need to diversify its tax base before build-out.

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    THe problem with decreased tax receipts was totally foreseeable. THis will apply to Kalahari’s projections also.No one that I know of has examined the impact of the countries fianancial problems on Kalahari, or asked in depth questions about their finances. WHat loans do they have outstanding at what interest rates, where will they get the money for Kalahari and at what rate, how much cash will they put in. Kalahari is a private company and as such its true ownership and finances are closed to the public. We only know what they tell us unless the city has seen a sworn accounting from a reputabl company. Forbes magazine ran an article on the large increase in crime backed private companies for exactly that reason.

    Citicrop the largest bank in the world has had to get billions in foreign loans to bail them out of their financial crisis, as has Merrill Lynch. AMerican Express who caters to the affluent card holders is having an increase in customer delinquencies or inability to pay, as Has ATT. THis councel seems to know zero about fianancial matters and I find it frightening.

  27. Matt Kelly Avatar
    Matt Kelly

    Anonymous 1:06PM—Way too many assumptions on your part. We are looking into financial assumptions. In regards to the project I’ll bet there are a lot of bankers and investors also looking at this project. And if they don’t like what they see the project will never be built in which case this discussion is moot. The city isn’t financing this 200+ million dollar project and Kalahari doesn’t get anything from the city if it isn’t built.

    As for the decline of revenue receipts being foreseeable I couldn’t agree more. I’ve posted as much on the latest Kalahari discussion on this blog. The question is how to diversify our tax base so that we minimize the impact of revenue declines in one area in the future.

    By the way I’ve spend four years on the REDCO board with a large number of bankers and investors evaluating SBA loan requests. Don’t know if you will find that reassuring or not.

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    All I know is that the mayor said, after large amounts of money having been spent on this project, that only now are you planning to hire an outside consultant to analyze what costs the city is likely to incur because of the resort. This sounds rather naive and late to me.
    I would also mention the too big to fail concept. Will we become so dependant on the taxes from Central Park , Kalahari etc. that we will be forced to give further incentives in the future should this become a cropper.

    I also submit that the idea of a 7 million dollar park becoming a “destination” to entice people from Washington, who are surrounded by many large parks, to come 50 miles to ours, using $3 gas, is too rediciulous to contemplate. Unless you plan to make that another amusement park also.

    Methinks that you confuse wants and needs, which at this financialy problematic time especially, is a very dangerous thing to do.

  29. Matt Kelly Avatar
    Matt Kelly

    Anonymous 4:05PM—What $7 Million dollar park? Kalahari is a hotel/conference center with a water park. The cost of the project will be around $200+ million dollars. Incentives will end after 10 years if another $25 million is not invested in the project after it opens. Incentives will only continue if the project is successful.

  30. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    hey.. if you’re not careful you’re going to confuse them with facts.. and then they’d have to resort to other methods to try to inflame the public…

  31. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr Gross and Mr.Kelley,
    I was referring to the 7 million dollar park on Sophia St. on the river. As Mr. Kelley is on the Council,, I thought he knew that the city (Taxpayers) just paid $950,000 to buy a lot, which will be combined with several other lots not yet paid for, and turned into a 7 million dollar park that the Mayor claims will be a “destination.” THis seven million dollars is at a time when we have just been told the city will have a further large budget deficit. The ‘destination” will presumably be so enticing that people will pay $3 a gallon for gas in a time of national financial stress, to drive here from Washington where they are surrounded by parks, both on the Potomac River and elsewhere.

    I repeat my questions about Kalahari, which is a private company whose owners and finances are closed to us without a sworn statement by a reputable accounting firm. The true owners are also closed to us as are all owners of private companies. As a matter of fact, Forbes magazine ran a recent article on how many private companies are being formed by crooks to launder money,

    As for Mr. Kelleys “bet” that investors and bankers are looking into Kalaharis finances, his “bet” is not enough. If he used to bet on such things at Redco, I hope the bankers were more competent than the biggest bankers in this country who have led their banks into disastrous losses, neccessitating bailouts from Saudi Arabia, Prince Alaweed, the Singapore Sovereign funds as well as other Sovereign Funds. So, no, Mr. Kelley I am not reassured. I am not reassured by peoples bets, but only on FACTS that I know to be true, and so far, I have not seen any such facts.

    And that, Mr. Gross is a true fact, not something to inflame the public as your snide little remark insinuated.

  32. Matt Kelly Avatar
    Matt Kelly

    Anonymous 1:44PM—Second line of my 2:18PM post. We are looking at financials. We are also bringing in an outside firm who has dealt with these types of proposals to look things over. Please accept my apologies that I missed your reference to the river front park. I would however point out that at this time we are only involved in acquiring the land. The 7M price was given by staff as an estimate to complete the entire riverfront development project, which will take years to complete. At this point there has been no such appropriation and financial constraints will probably affect it. As for the benefits of a downtown park I would refer you to other communities that have done such projects. Mr. Provo can provide you with some as he did me.

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    As you say that the riverfront park will take years to complete, and you dont own the other necessary land and can not afford to buy it for what looks like a long time, I am interested in why you did not retain the old building and rent it for income while waiting.
    It was rented previously, and although no thing of beauty, could have been utilized in some way to bring in some income. THere might be a good reason and I am interested in hearing what it is. If you do not have one, it seems like what I consider the Councils usual carelessness with the people’s money.

  34. Matt Kelly Avatar
    Matt Kelly

    Anonymous 9:05AM—The usual comment we get at the Visitor’s Center is where is the river. We are going to try and open things up so people can see it. By at least reseeding the area and putting some benches in we will have a river venue for art shows, picnics, and other events that will attract people downtown. Studies have shown that such venues do attract people and there is a positive economic impact. There is also the fact that property values around such venues increase. Taking these steps should produce more revenue than a cinderblock-building can.

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    Do you really want to increase the property values around the lot you bought before you buy the others?? Or have you bought them already in order to surprise us????

    You need a good negotiator on that council..

    THere is more and more grumbling about the way you have handled all of this. Including the HUGE 61 million. Your agreement is called the stealth bomber now. If you listen, you willhear it.

    I know you typed up speeches for that poor old black man who could hardly read his, and others, but more and more of the tax payers are disgusted.

  36. Anonymous Avatar

    It seems Mr. Kelley has retired from the discussion.

    More rumours are going around Is it true that the OCuncil didnt know of the almost five million dollar deficit until the begining of January? Or did some members know and kept it quiet?

    DId you combine issuing a bond for 7 million for sewage treatment with 2 million to buy more park land, thus making council members vote for both because they know they need the sewage improvements.? WHat is the interest rate on this bond and how is it rated and when is it due? DId you buy insurance on it and if so, from whom and at what cost? WHat is the yearly interest cost to the taxpayers for this?

  37. Einstein Avatar

    While following the Kalahari debate, I too was curious about the point brought up by Anonymous (9:11). Mr. Kelly touts the many new capital expense projects in our City (community pool, parking deck, new schools) and their fiscal impact as examples of why we need a Kalahari. Was it smart and responsible spending I guess is my question? It seems there was spending by the City up to the budget limit and then a fervent hope(gamble) that the city wouldn’t face any large capital outlays for 4 years. Then they found mold in the courthouse. And we somehow went from finding mold in the courthouse to the urgent need to build a $63 million dollar complex with retail, parking and town homes. Add to that the impact of surrounding development(hardly unforeseen) on sales tax revenue and I begin to question the fiscal management and vision of this administration. Mr Kelly is found of responding to Kalahari critics with, “What is your alternative?” Valid. However, given that the Kalahari option is relatively new (somewhat) I’d like to hear what Mr. Kelly’s et. al’s plan was to generate the needed revenue for our city absent fortuitous and timely arrival of Kalahari?

  38. Anonymous Avatar

    THis council has been secretive about the 4.7 million dollar deficit over the past five months. I have been told that they still can not trace where the money went. But Kalahari will bail us out. THe only trouble is that as they have given away almost half of the taxes we should receive, we only will get a little over $3 million a year from it, not enough to pay the 4.7 FIVE MONTH deficit they have just run up.

    At the past two meetings, almost everyone on their side was paid by SIlver as a pr man, or had taken money from silver for the arts, or had been given typewritten speeches to read that they could hardly read, or had their hand out for a payment from the tax payers for some kind of “economical development” like the $25,000 awning for a wine bar to use for a sidewalk drinking area.

    THey brought in the pitiful poor to urge for the wonderful jobs that Kalhari would bring. Everyone wanted or had gotten something.

    THe people who spoke against Kalahari were not asking for anything except intelligent, open , fair government which we have not gotten. The spending of money we do not have, for things they want but do not need, that has landed us in this financial mess is never discussed. Their toadies always change the subject to the glories that will come with Kalahari.

    We have become enslaved to SIlver and his development, like an addict that can not give up our addiction of “easy money.” I used to think that this Council was merely ignorant, now I am beginning to wonder if there is more to it than that.

Leave a Reply