City denies seat on tax district
Decisions regarding themed park too early, council members believe
Members of the Williams City Council denied a decision regarding the proposed themed park during their regularly scheduled meeting Jan. 10, saying the decision would be too premature in light of the fact that county supervisors have not voted to approve the district. Council members were asked to appoint a member to the special taxing district board, made up of two Phoenix officials, two Coconino County officials and one city of Williams representative. While Phoenix has already appointed two representatives to the district board, officials in northern Arizona have yet to make a move, which they say is due to unanswered questions in regards to the project.
Officials with Grand Canyon Northland Amusements and Entertainment, LLC, (GCNAE) were not present for the Jan. 10 meeting. Marc Worden, with Renaissance in the Pines, however, did attend the evening session. Renaissance in the Pines is currently partnered with GCNAE.
"The theme park people have asked, as they are forming their tax district, to appoint our member to that tax district board. The city of Phoenix has already appointed their two members," Mayor Ken Edes told council members.
"My suggestion is a suggestion only. They (GCNAE) requested that whoever is the mayor of Williams be one of the board members - our appointee. I think we could probably appoint that person. When you do a real estate contract, you put a contingency that the county approve their two. In other words, if the county never approves their board members neither do we. I believe the questions they've asked are the ones we've asked. They have to be answered for them to approve their two members. If they can be answered then we could probably appoint our person," Edes said. "The only other thing, Don (Dent) and I discussed this, the in-lieu of taxes, I think, is something that we need to push fairly strongly that it be done legislatively and not just a handshake and an agreement. Their in-lieu of means that they have said that they would pay, this city and state, their sales tax and their property taxes up here."
"These guys had time to go change the legislation without our knowledge to put one of our people on that board rather than three county board members, but they chose to ignore that issue completely when they changed that legislation," said Councilman Don Dent. "As far as I'm concerned, until our questions are answered about the makeup of the board, the liability of the board, what happens to the district liability if it fails and concrete promises given that that legislation be changed, I'm not interested in putting anybody on that board. Furthermore, they did give a very nice book for all the supervisors to read. I understand we maybe got three or four copies. I'm not sure if they don't think all of us read it or are not interested or what, but they had that thing a week or 10 days before this item was even on the agenda. As far as I'm concerned this item being on the agenda is way premature."
Council member Kevin Young questioned what the responsibilities would be should Williams pick a representative to fill the seat.
"Why is it being done so far out in advance prior to us knowing anything about the park?" Young asked.
Edes said the board would oversee the park during its early stages and that no money would be spent on other aspects, such as feasibility studies, until the district was formed. Should the Williams portion of the proposed two theme parks not find approval, Edes said a Williams board member would still retain a seat on the district.
"We're not approving the theme park by appointing a board member. All we're doing is approving the tax district. Then they have to do their due diligence and prove to the board and the entities that are involved that it's going to be profitable."