WALLINGFORD — The Town Council approved transferring a tax incentive program to the new owners of the Hilton Garden Inn, which sold last week for nearly $14 million.
The vote Tuesday night was 7 to 2, with Craig Fishbein and John LeTourneau dissenting.
The program would save the new owners nearly $355,000 over the next three years, according to calculations by the town tax assessor. The owners would pay an estimated $299,000 in real estate taxes annually.
The council needed to approve the transfer because of two terms of the existing seven-year tax assessment agreement with CT Wallingford LLC, a holding company for Raleigh, North Carolina-based Winston Hospitality. One of the terms states that if the property is sold, the town had the right to terminate the agreement. The other states that Robert Winston III would remain a managing partner.
Winston sold the property to Walford LLC, a holding company for Westlake, Ohio-based Emerald Hospitality Associates, for $13,925,000. The sale was finalized June 18. Emerald wanted to carry over the tax assessment agreement, which was granted to the previous owners in 2014 and went into effect in 2015.
Emerald CEO James Gerish and Emerald CFO Art Borowski answered questions from the council.
While the 139-room hotel at 1181 Barnes Road will stay a Hilton, Emerald plans to invest close to $1 million to bring the hotel up to the latest Hilton standards, replacing carpeting and wall vinyl, and upgrading the lobby, Borowski said. They also plan to retain the current staff of 35 full-time and 25 part-time workers.
The request came to the council from the town Economic Development Commission on behalf of Emerald.
“We’re getting a good company,” said EDC Chairman Joe Mirra “They spend much time and effort in training their staff for a high level of service for their guests.”
Councilor Jason Zandri said that the town wasn’t expecting the $355,000 in tax revenue anyway, and the town got what it wanted from Winston, which was a cleaned up and functional hotel on a site that had fallen into disrepair.
LeTourneau recalled brokering the agreement with Winston in 2014.
“It’s taxpayer money and we have a chance to get some back,” he said.