Great Wolf may be big — really big
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 15, 2016
LaGRANGE — If it’s built, the new Great Wolf water park and resort planned for Whitesville Road near Interstate 85 would be one of the tallest buildings in Troup County.
So tall, in fact, that the city’s Board of Planning and Zoning Appeals on Monday approved a height variance for the location.
At its tallest point, the hotel and indoor water park would reach 95 feet, according to Steve Rowe, a vice president with the planning and landscape architecture firm AEC of Roswell. The rest of the building, though, would be about 75 feet tall — 25 feet higher than the city’s ordinance allows without a variance.
“This would be one of the largest commercial buildings in the city,” said Leigh Threadgill, the city planner.
Rowe explained the height was necessary to keep hotel rooms close to the water park and parking. If the developer had to build horizontally, he said, it would put hotel rooms uncomfortably far from parking and other amenities.
Conceptual drawings of the resort show it looming large on a hill next to Interstate 85. In the drawings, a 95-foot tower sits closest to the interstate with a whirling water slide jutting out and downward.
The drawings, though, are not final architectural renderings and Threadgill cautioned against reading too much into them. She explained they are meant to show the scale of the project, not the specifics.
There are still hold ups in the project.
The developer is waiting on a decision about a state tourism tax credit before moving forward, according to Interim City Manager Meg Kelsey.
The state departments of community affairs and economic development must approve Great Wolf’s participation in the tax program, called the Georgia Tourism Development Act Program.
Kelsey said the two departments could begin deliberating about whether or not to approve the project as early as Friday.
The program is a state sales and use tax incentive for tourism development projects, according to Department of Community Affairs literature. It aims to create or expand tourist attractions within the state and lower unemployment by preserving and creating jobs through sales and use tax refunds offered by state and local governments.
Three other tourist destinations in Georgia have been approved to participate in the Georgia Tourism Development Act Program.
The city of LaGrange, the LaGrange Development Authority, Troup County Commission and Board of Education all signed agreements last fall constituting the local governments’ offer to Great Wolf.
The LaGrange Development Authority met in October and approved a $170 million bond issue for the resort and hotel. That bond is backed by Great Wolf’s credit and does not have public liability.
The deal does not include any tax concessions that would affect school board revenues.
The resort may create as many as 400 jobs, but it remains to be seen how many are full-time employment, or if those jobs provide benefits like health insurance or paid vacation.