Mountain Creek takes proposal to public
Executives discuss indoor water park details, get feedback
VERNON — Executives from Mountain Creek met with the public at the Appalachian Hotel to discuss their proposal for construction of an indoor water park and hotel to be built in the municipality.
Andrew Mulivihill, CEO of Crystal Springs, chaired the meeting in which he outlined the organization’s plans, in hopes of meeting with the Vernon Township Council in the near future to begin negotiations for authorization a Payment in Lieu of Taxes ordinance to help ensure the additional funding.
Only the council can auhtorize a PILOT.
Estimated at a cost of $140 million, Mountain Creek will need the assistance of the PILOT ordinance to fill a $28 million gap in funding. In this case, a tax incentive of 50 percent over the course of 30 years. According to Mulivihill, the area provides only $15,000 a year in tax revenue, whereas, the proposed water park would contribute an estimated $1.6 million a year in tax revenue, with $1.29 million going directly to Vernon Township and an additional $900,000 a year in hotel taxes.
“It is not uncommon for these projects to need additional funding and support of the local community.” said John Fetterly, general counsel. “A partnership between the municipality and the developer.”
The proposed site would border Route 94, Sandhill Road, Black Creek Condiminums and Cobblestone Village.
“The beauty of the site is that there are other things to do to keep people engaged.” said Bill Benneyan, president of Mountain Creek, citing the potential for more revenue generated for local Vernon businesses and strengthen the local economy.
The proposed project is a 400-room hotel with 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom rooms. The indoor water park would consist of slides flumes, a wave pool and tube rides. Other amenities proposed inclulde: a 40,000-square-foot convention center to attract corporate business and a 40,000-square-foot indoor action sports center. Ideally, groundbreaking would begin 12 months after initial approval it would be open for business within three years.
The idea behind the resort is the indoor parks would not be weather dependent and can offer year-round revenue for Mountain Creek, which according to Mulivihill, also would create year-round employment opportunities.
“This would strengthen the local economy and eliminate seasonality.” Mulivihill said. “It would create all-season jobs, full-time, year-round jobs.”
Some residents expressed concern over traffic issues and whether the tax breaks for the resort are a fair deal for Vernon.
While traffic has been affected by Mountain Creek in the past, Mulivihill cites issues with improperly trained staff and insists the occurrences are rare. He said the majority of traffic would be due to guests of the hotel, which should not conflict with regular commuting.
“Traffic patterns will be spread out,” Mulivihill said. “Parking will be primarily at the hotel and we will have proper parking and attendants in place for special events.”
While traffic patterns will be spaced out and not necessarily fall during heavy commuting hours, at this time no traffic impact studies have been done.
Some are skeptical about whether the tax incentives are fair to the township. While a PILOT is allotted 35 years, the average timeframe is 25 years. In this case the resort, is asking for a longer-than-average incentive period and a 50 percent rate. To that end, if Vernon Township is assisting in the development of the facility, will residents be permitted to utilize the water park without being guests of the hotel.
At this time there does not seem to be a plan to allow day passes to the water park, a concern mentioned by Council Member Jean Murphy.
“That would be a question that I would have.” said Murphy.
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