WALLINGFORD—The Town Council will consider terms of a seven-year tax agreement between the town and a hotel developer during Tuesday’s council meeting.
Robert Winston, owner of the Raleigh, N.C. based Winston Hospitality, Inc., is looking for tax relief to build a 139-room Hilton Garden Inn at 1181 Barnes Road, just off Interstate 91. After he took ownership of the partially built hotel just over a year ago, Winston proposed several different agreements to the Town Council and Economic Development Commission. He has said lower taxes will allow him to complete the project.
The council tentatively approved a tax agreement during a meeting with Winston on March 18. Since then, the law department worked to draft a written agreement.
Councilors who have read the agreement said they support it. Tuesday’s meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall.
“At my glance it looked appropriate based upon what we discussed with Mr. Winston,” Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said.
“I looked it over, and it looks fine,” Town Councilor John LeTourneau said. “It’s exactly what we talked about.”
“I’m glad to see there were no other conditions in there that we weren’t discussing,” Town Councilor Vincent Testa said. “It looks pretty straightforward. I’m glad it moved out quickly and Mr. Winston can move forward.”
Winston initially offered to pay $670,000 in taxes over the next seven years. But Town Assessor Shelby Jackson disagreed with Winston’s property appraisal and felt the hotel should be valued higher, bringing in about $1.2 million over that seven-year period. Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. and the Economic Development Commission favored Jackson’s assessment.
On March 18, the council came to a compromise with Winston, who agreed to pay $818,000. The amount is based on a fixed assessment schedule laid out in the agreement. The property will be assessed at $2.5 million in the first year after the hotel is finished. Over the next six years the assessment will progressively increase to $10.5 million. As the appraisal increases, so do they property taxes.
Winston owns the property through a limited liability company called CT Wallingford. The agreement stipulates that Winston remain the managing partner of the company. Also, the hotel must be built according to existing plans approved by Hilton, and the hotel must remain a Hilton Garden Inn. According to terms of the agreement, the hotel must be completed and certified for occupation by Oct. 1, 2016, otherwise the agreement will be terminated. The property must remain under ownership of CT Wallingford. If not, the town reserves the right to end the agreement.
With the town’s approval, Winston has said he has a better chance of receiving aid from the state. Winston is pursuing additional financial assistance through the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s Small Business Express Program. State statute says any business that plans to be operating for longer than 12 months with fewer than 100 employees is eligible for the program. Winston hopes to hire nearly 50 people. The program offers a matching grant maxing out at $100,000 along with loans of as much as $100,000 and $300,000.
While Winston hasn’t said the project relies solely on the availability of state aid, “he did imply that he was relying pretty heavily on it,” Cervoni said.
“I want Mr. Winston to have as few excuses as possible for not getting that eye sore in workable condition,” he said.