GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Business by the water on Lake Guntersville is growing – bringing economic prosperity to the area.
On Monday night, the Guntersville City Council voted to approve a development agreement for a new hotel on the harbor. The two-acre lot at the Guntersville City Harbor will eventually host an upscale hotel, but the decision by the council to get to this point did not come free of community drama.
“I’m here tonight because I’m frustrated at this,” said a concerned resident.
Over 100 people were in the room as the Guntersville City Council voted to surplus two acres of waterfront property. Dozens spoke against and for the decision by the council to sell the land to Patrick Lawler, the same man who recently developed City Harbor with shops and restaurants.
“Where were the people over the last 30 years beating down the doors to develop or buy it?” asked another resident. “It’s only worth something to people now that the man spent over $20 million to develop it.”
Those in opposition to the deal say it was secretive and the City should have appraised the land’s value.
“Looks very much like favoritism,” a man attending the meeting said to council.
Rod Kanter, the city’s economic development attorney, explained this was done as an incentive for the local developer to build a quality product.
“When negotiating economic development terms, it is common and customary to try to get the terms settled because you have to put the structure together and then once you’ve got it together in fashion, you think [it] is agreeable to the other side and vice versa, then the public forum comes into play,” Kanter stated.
Lawler says people can get excited about what’s to come.
“We’re talking with Hilton right now, to be a Hilton product, but we want to create something very unique,” Lawler said. “It won’t be a normal Hilton product. It’ll have a little more flare to it – probably resort-style pool and on the higher end.”
Lawler has hurdles to get through before being given the property by the city, but this will be a quick turnaround job. The maximum time it could take for people to stay at the new hotel on the harbor is five years.