The Development Authority of Dawson County recently reached an agreement that would give Kroger some tax relief while also securing the grocer's new, larger location in Dawsonville on Ga. 400.
"Keeping Kroger in Dawson County and making sure Kroger built one of their new flagship Marketplace facilities was considered to be of the upmost importance," said Charlie Auvermann, the authority's executive director.
"Kroger had a number of location options under consideration, all of which would have meant that they would no longer have a store in Dawson County."
Kroger announced earlier this year plans to relocate the Dawsonville store to the new retail development going in at the southwest corner of Ga. 400 and Dawson Forest Road.
The authority has agreed to provide private bonds for title in the amount $23 million at Kroger's request, which means the actual property will be owned by the authority and exempt from property taxes.
"We took it under careful consideration and evaluation," Auvermann said. "The project met the size criteria and was determined to be of strategic importance to the future economic viability of this county."
Auvermann said the authority's board felt a full tax exemption was not in the best interest of the county.
"A payment in lieu of taxes was negotiated with Kroger," he said. "Those annual payments will be sent to both the county and the school system as if they were actual property taxes."
The agreement addresses project costs associated with the abandonment of the current Kroger store, including a requirement by the authority that the current site be maintained properly, proper removal of the gas island and an effort made to find a new tenant for the building.
Kroger must also meet a series of annual job and investment criteria; otherwise the contractual agreement with the authority would be forfeited.
Auvermann said the county can expect to see in excess of $450,000 annually in additional tax income from the new store.
"Kroger will now be opening one of the largest, most advanced stores in this region and it will continue to make Dawson County a focal point for not just local shoppers but for shoppers from North Forsyth, Hall, Lumpkin and Pickens counties," Auvermann said.
With what has been documented as more than 80 percent of the people shopping at North Georgia Premium Outlets and 50 percent of the people that shop at the Dawsonville Walmart and Home Depot not living in Dawson County, Auvermann said projects like the Kroger Marketplace help guarantee tax income well into the future, keeping citizen taxes low.
"Those shoppers provide a substantial level of tax revenue to this county," he said. "In turn our commissioners can provide parks, emergency services, sheriff's protection and other services at much higher levels than many of the surrounding counties, and they do not have to raise private citizens' taxes as a result."
The Dawson County Board of Commissioners is aware of the effort the authority is making to keep Kroger in the county, according to Auvermann.
"The authority provides them with timely reports on economic activity in the county and meets face to face with them on a regular basis to address any questions they might have about the efforts of the authority," he said. "At the same time the authority has the state mandated obligation to consider large projects for possible bonds for title issuance."
Auvermann assures the citizens that taxpayers would not be burdened by the agreement.
"Private bonds for title do not obligate any taxpayer funds at any point in the process and will not place this project into a future situation where Dawson County citizens would have to bail out the project or require the citizens to fund the project in anyway," he said.
Citing Dawson County as a well-established retail destination, Auvermann said the community cannot continue to rely on the current infrastructure in the battle with neighboring or nearby shopping districts.
"Many people know there are several new major shopping locations under development along Ga. 400. For Dawson County to retain its hard earned status as a premier shopping location, we cannot sit back and let other counties take away our source of SPLOST and ELOST funding," he said.
"We have to be aggressive in maintaining our top locations, or we will find that we will become a backwater community where we continue to have to drive long distances to buy the items we need for our families."
A Superior Court judge must confirm and validate the agreement between the authority and Kroger.
A hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 8 at the Dawson County Courthouse.
The hearing is open to the public.
"Any citizen of the state of Georgia residing in Dawson County or any other person wherever residing who has a right to object, may intervene and become a party to the proceedings," according to the legal advertisement announcing the hearing.