Braselton has taken its first step towards raising the town's hotel/motel tax, a move that would generate additional funds for tourism in the city.

The Braselton Town Council voted Feb. 10 to move forward with increasing the hotel-motel tax from 5-percent to 8-percent. That increase must go to the Georgia General Assembly for ultimate approval.

Braselton is among several local municipalities making similar requests. Town manager Jennifer Scott said Lanier Islands, Oakwood and Flowery Branch all have similar requests, while the City of Gainesville increased its rate last year.

Scott noted the town's Visitors Bureau Authority has held off on raising the rate in order to keep Chateau Elan and its conferences competitive with other area venues, specifically Lanier Islands.

“Now that Lanier Islands is going to 8-percent, it’ll be an even playing field,” said Scott.

If the local legislation is approved, the additional 3-percent will be spent on tourism within the town. Scott said half of the increase must be spent on marketing, while the remaining can be used on construction and maintenance of tourism-related capital projects.

MERITAGE DISCUSSION

Also at its February meetings, the council discussed an upcoming vote on a large development request by Meritage Homes.

The council decided last month to defer a decision on annexation, rezoning and a master plan change for a proposed planned unit development on 141 acres off Duncan Creek Rd. Meritage Homes of Georgia plans to develop 321 detached single-family lots on the property.

Council member Jim Joedecke questioned the council during its Feb. 6 work session on whether citizens will get to make comments about the project at next month's meeting. (Joedecke has previously been critical of the project, arguing the development doesn't meet the town's standards for a planned unit development.) He said several citizens have asked if there will be any discussion on the matter in March.

But Scott and town attorney Gregory Jay noted the public hearing has already been held on the development, so only a vote will be taken when the item comes back to the council next month.

Several area residents, apparently opposed to the Meritage development, showed up to Braselton's Feb. 10 meeting. Although none of them spoke on the project directly, one woman did read a list of criteria used in the town's planning decisions during the citizen-comment period.

OTHER BUSINESS

Also at its meeting, the council approved:

•alcohol license requests for: Jose Garcia for Sneaky Sancho Wings and Tacos at 1975 Hwy. 211; James Coppola for CVS at 7395 Spout Springs Rd.; and Jeong Kim for Sushi Heeya.

•a GEFA loan for $580,000 for Harrison St. stormwater improvements. The town was awarded the loan and, because of its designation as a WaterFirst community, received a loan rate of 0.5-percent. Scott said the street has "horrible stormwater issues" which have caused problems for some buildings along that street.

•a census proclamation to acknowledge the importance of the 2020 census.

•a statewide mutual aid agreement.

•adding Jennifer White as a municipal court associate judge for the town, allowing her to fill in if the town's municipal court judge is absent. White  previously served as solicitor for the town. She has since been named a judge in Suwanee, disqualifying her from serving as solicitor in the town.

•a housing and booking agreement for the Jackson County Jail.

•an extraterritorial assistance agreement with Jackson County, allowing the town and county to assist each other in emergencies or special circumstances.

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