LakePoint: 'The Biggest Thing Bartow Has Ever Seen'

Are taxpayers footing the bill to bring more than 2,000 jobs and what could be a lot of new business to Bartow?

LakePoint Sporting Community & Town Center is a 1,380-acre mixed development now underway in Emerson. It is set to include a 262-acre sports complex—to play host to baseball, lacrosse and soccer tournaments—surrounded by commercial development including restaurants, retail outlets, entertainment options and hotels.

Big for Bartow, Cartersville

With talk of four hotels, a shopping mall, numerous medical facilities and more, the just south of Cartersville is poised to change the landscape of Bartow.

“There’s a whole lot of components in this thing when it comes together," Commissioner Clarence Brown said. "It’s big, it’s huge. This is bigger than anything Bartow County has ever seen. It’s not just going to be big for Bartow County, it’s going to affect the whole north Georgia."

In addition to , a number of facilities are planned for LakePoint Sporting Community & Town Center, including:

  • Company ; Shaw Industries' Sportexe Division, a reported $40 million investment; LakePoint Sports Development Group and others; and
  • Hotels, restaurants, ancillary entertainment and amusement facilities, parking lots and other improvements.

Early talks included businesses such as Stars and Strikes bowling, Publix, CiCi’s Pizza, Fudd­ruckers and La Parilla Mexican Restaurant, according to Rome News-Tribune. Later estimates call for 80 new restaurants, 1,500 hotel rooms and a large residential area.

Because Emerson and its new facilities will be unable to accommodate—at least in the shorter term—all LakePoint's visitors, the spill over could come to Cartersville in the form of more hotels, restaurants and retail establishments.

Upgrades to Bartow-Carver Park

LakePoint also has plans for upgrades to Lake Allatoona recreation opportunities. In its memorandum of understanding with Bartow County and the city of Emerson, which is attached to this article as a .pdf, LakePoint spells out intentions of changing two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers properties—Bartow Carver Park and Emerson's recreational property.

Subject to leasing the properties, which currently are leased by the county and city, respectively, LakePoint could construct:

  • Boat ramps and marinas;
  • Parking facilities;
  • A "unique" fishing village, including a fish-camp style restaurant;
  • Retail shops to "support the activities of the fishing village and other venues;
  • A rowing facility for use by the public and Kennesaw State University's women's crew team;
  • An RV park;
  • Beaches;
  • Playgrounds; and
  • Water ski facilities.

Bartow Underwrites the Dream

To make it happen, Bartow County’s development authority is issuing $500 million in revenue bonds although Brown said the actual investment in LakePoint over time would total $1 billion.

The county, Emerson and the authority, which will hold title to the project site, “have no financial obligation or liability” for principal and interest payments on the initial investment, according to the MOU. Those are set to be made by LakePoint in the form of annual lease payments through 2027.

The county also agreed to give LakePoint 10 years of property tax abatements, much as it did for , which have brought hundreds of jobs to Bartow.

“That’s not 10 full years of tax abatements," Brown said. "The first year, they don’t have to pay taxes, the second year they have to pay 10 percent, the third year they have to pay 20 percent, then 40, 60 until they pay 100 percent.

"They have to guarantee that they’re [moving forward],” he added. “They can’t wait until I think past six years and start these facilities. They’ve got to be building pretty quick to get these tax abatements. Of course, there are a number of jobs included."

LakePoint would generate an estimated $20 million in annual sales tax revenue once it begins to bring in an estimated 3 million visitors a year, according to Atlanta Real Estate Forum. And that doesn't include sales tax generated by supporting businesses, or hotel/motel taxes which could alone bring to the county.

County officials say it's the sales tax that makes any commercial activity attractive to Bartow.

"The significance is the sales tax implications for our community," said Attorney Boyd Pettit. "That’s why it’s important for us for any commercial activities because there are three pennies of sales tax collected on these commercial transactions—one penny that goes to the schools to assist with their capital projects, which was voted on and approved by the voters, has an expiration date to it.

"The second is the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which is distributed between the county and the municipalities in the county pursuant to a distribution formula. The third penny is the Local Option Sales Tax, which is collected and goes to the county to help it to be able to offset its operational expenses."

But the General Assembly passed a bill allowing ventures such as LakePoint to get back as much as 25 percent of construction costs in state sales- and use-tax rebates over a 10-year period, which is estimated to be up to $250 million for the Emerson development.

Before approval, the absence of the tourism bill stopped in its tracks the notorious ski resort proposed for the same area. If the governor allows LakePoint the rebates, it could subtract a chunk of change from the state's coffers.

Putting Down Pavement

While the full financial impact of LakePoint and all it will bring is unclear, one thing seems sure—traffic could be a problem.

According to Bartow Headlines, a five-lane highway through LakePoint is in the works in addition to other road modifications and additions connecting Red Top Mountain Road and U.S. 41.

To get the funding ball rolling, .

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

What's it all for? For Emerson, viability? The little city poised for massive change needs some infrastructure work.

Brown has made it clear his No. 1 priority is to bring jobs to Bartow with its higher-than-average unemployment fueled by the economic downturn. The longtime sole commissioner believes jobs are the way to recovery.

“Some jobs will pay well and some will just be good jobs," Brown said. "I’m sure some of them are going to pay well. There’s four hotels looking and probably four will be built, and whatever they pay hotel workers."

LakePoint estimates it will provide , but at build out with all the supporting hotels, restaurants and retailers, the real number of new jobs could be 10 times more, about a fourth of Bartow's population.

“Once you do [LakePoint], there’s just going to be a whole lot of other things," Brown added. "There are some people looking to build a mall down there and stuff like that. There’s just more and more and it goes on and on. We don’t know where it’s going to lead, we just know it’s big.”

Scott Barkley October 27, 2011 at 04:41 PM
As much as I read up on this, it's still tough to wrap my head around the amount of change coming to this area. I've been here ten years, so not a lifer, but can understand how some folks might not like the development should it go as far as projected. That considered, I'd still count myself in favor of it due to the amount of jobs it can bring to the area. If it gets too rowdy I'll retreat for the weekend across the state line to my hometown in Alabama. Always quiet over there.
Brande Poulnot (Editor) October 27, 2011 at 04:50 PM
It's tough for me to imagine what's coming, too. I was born and raised in Cartersville and it always will be my home, but I'm feeling a little nostalgic in light of LakePoint. I remember when you could drive down 41 and see hardly a thing until Marietta. On the other hand, if my children choose to live here, I want them to have a well kept community and lots of opportunities. We'll see what happens!
Bruce Nebergall October 28, 2011 at 10:31 AM
I have very serious concerns about this. 500 Million in revenue bonds which are supposed to be paid back by Lakepoint .... which MIGHT be paid back by Lakepoint. This is a commercial venture by private interests over which there is NO oversight. It could go down the tubes in a heartbeat. Look at Solyndra. If it does, those so-called 2000 jobs will have cost the taxpayer $250,000 each. Those infrastructure improvements which are NOT currently needed will cost the taxpayer a bunch. At $20 Million a year in sales tax revenues, it may take 20 years to pay back the cost. And we only HOPE to attract more hotels, restaurants, etc. Lakepoint is going to put in a big retail area; they want to try and keep as much of the income going into their coffers just like Disney. What will that do to the surrounding existing retail businesses, make them grow? Maybe not. I don't think that Brown has thorught this through. Where does it say that government has the responsibility to guarantee anything which is what this is. I'm thinking I agin the whole thing the way it is structured.
phillip currie October 29, 2011 at 01:32 PM
I welcome Lakepoint with open arms. In the early 1980's I studied in high school during a career preference class that the United States was changing from a manufacturing work force to a country where all of our jobs would be service oriented. How true it has become especially right before our very eyes here in Bartow County. We have seen all of our jobs leave, such as Lever Bros., Thrall Car, and etc. If Toyo or Budwieser were to leave where would we work? Let's be thankful we have a chance, along with our children's future, to get a job even if it would be service oriented, without having to relocate to another county or state. Lakepoint will bring so many jobs our economy in this county should boom.
Bill Thrasher October 29, 2011 at 03:33 PM
It will be bigger than the "Busch Gardens" that was always talked about but never materialized. It seems that while other Counties have simply sat on their hands, Bartow, the City of Emerson and others have stepped up and put skin in the game.


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