The Greene County Economic Development Authority (EDA) unanimously approved at its meeting July 16 the USDA financing to purchase the home and property to house a new visitor center in Ruckersville. Member Matt Dillon was not present.
The bond will be paid back using part of the 3% Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOT) placed on lodging stays—whether hotel, Airbnb, cabins and lodges.
The EDA voted unanimously to approve the purchase at its June 4 meeting.
The property in question, a large brick home dubbed the Taylor House for a previous resident, is on 1.5 acres along U.S. Route 29 in front of the Lowe’s and Walmart shopping center in Ruckersville.
In a stark contrast to the June 4 public hearing and vote with roughly 90 members of the public, only two were in the audience during last week’s meeting and only one spoke during the public hearing.
Jimmy Henshaw said he expects the property will become a glorified Route 29 public bathroom rest area.
“I’ve built a few houses and torn some down … I think you need to do some research and look at other sites,” said Henshaw. “This just sounds like a terrible idea to spend all that money for an old house that’s about all I have to say.”
Under Virginia State Code the EDA has the authority to take out loans and secure bonds with approval from the supervisors. The project was recommended to the EDA by the Greene County Tourism Council, an appointed body who has a say in how tourism funds are spent, under state code.
The county is getting a USDA Rural Development Loan for $1,040,000 at a fixed 3.5% interest rate for 40 years, according to Daniel Lauro, bond counsel for the county.
“The public has talked a lot about an $800,000 purchase amount. That was never a set amount,” said Alan Yost, director of economic development and tourism for the county. “I don’t know if the public got that from at one point in time we were talking about a conventional loan where we would have had to put down $20,000 so we would have borrowed $800,000. The price has always been $1 million.”
The additional $40,000 is from closing costs of appraisal and attorney fees associated with the bond, Yost added.
“This is a taxable financing not a tax-exempt financing like some of the others we’ve come before you with,” Lauro said. “This does free up the use of the facilities a little bit … from tax exempt use.”
The annual payment to USDA will be $48,704, as well as a debt service reserve fund required by USDA of $4,870.40 yearly.
“This loan is not considered a debt to the county,” Lauro said. “It is considered an expense under Virginia law because it’s subject to appropriation annually by the board of supervisors. As is typical with these financings there is limited liability to the [EDA] so if for some reason the county doesn’t appropriate those funds the authority isn’t on the hook in any way, shape or form.”
Lauro said that’s when the lease trust kicks in and the USDA can lease the building until it gets its full payment and then turn it back over to the county.
The first payment will be due a year after closing.
The county’s current visitor center is adjacent to Blue Ridge Café in Ruckersville.
John Silke, who is on the tourism council, currently owns the proposed property and recused himself from all votes on the subject, Yost said previously.
The Greene County Board of Supervisors was expected to vote on the financing after press time at its July 23 meeting.