With council member Ed Brush recusing himself, the Emerson City Council unanimously approved the second reading of a conditional use permit application from a real estate investor eying the creation of an approximately 56-acre recreational vehicle (RV) park at Monday night’s called meeting.
The council approved the conditional use permit for a five-year period. At a Jan. 14 council meeting, LTB Holdings LLC President Todd Baldree said the plan is to build a campground with about 270 lots off Joe Frank Harris along the Etowah River.
“It’s going to be a Class A RV park that’s going to bring a lot of people, it’s going to help with LakePoint,” said Reece Stead, a representative of Metro RV Group, following Monday night’s approval. “It’s going to draw a lot of families, we’re going to have very nice amenities — pools, a clubhouse, stuff like that. Hopefully the river’s going to be a piece of it, too. We just think it’s going to be a nice place for families to come and stay and vacation.”
He said he anticipates the first phase of development costing about $9 million, with another $3 million estimated to finish off the remainder of the project. Stead, however, said there is no timetable in place for when construction on the RV resort may get started or wrap up.
“We’re still going through all of our due diligence,” he said. “But this was a big piece of it.”
The development, Emerson Mayor Al Pallone said, would fulfill a major regional need.
“I think it’s a good use of that property, and it’s a pretty good investment,” he said. “I think they’re going to do a very nice job. I think it’s going to be a great addition to the city.”
Efforts to bring an RV resort to Emerson date back to 2016, when Baldree and business partner Charlie Carroll proposed a potential park on about 56 acres near Paga Mine Road.
Pallone shared his thoughts on why this latest proposal seems to have turned the proverbial corner, whereas earlier ventures stalled out.
“We’re just working the details of it from a business perspective,” he said. “It really wasn’t anything that we were slowing down as a city, but we worked together with them, too, to make sure that what they are doing is going to suit the city and make sure it was going to meet the requirements that we had to put something like that in the city.”
Pallone said the conditional use permit is but the first step in a long process — indeed, he said the interested parties still haven’t purchased the actual riverside property they want for the development. Furthermore, he said it remains to be seen just how much revenue the city itself would generate from the development.
“Probably nothing this year, but it will eventually increase the ad valorem,” he said. “We’ll have a less than 2 mil property tax, and when you’ve got a $9 million investment, that will help us. We’ll also get some hotel/motel tax out of it once they open up, but at best, that will be next year.”
The city would be able to collect hotel/motel tax revenue off tenants who stay 30 days or less at the RV resort. Baldree said the maximum amount of time visitors can park at the proposed development would be six months.
Pallone said he doesn’t think the development would put too much stress on the city’s infrastructure. “There should be no impact,” he said. “We’ve got available water and sewer, so they should be able to handle it.”
Prior to the meeting the council held a work session in which Pallone shared details of a letter he recently received from representatives of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT.)
“They have a plan to do a bypass, a way of getting around the traffic problem at 41 and Red Top Mountain Road,” he said. “They’re looking at different solutions, and one of their solutions would require a road to kind of cut off 3rd Street where 3rd Street takes a left turn and goes up to 4th Street, to just take that part off.”
Pallone didn’t get the letter because he’s the city’s mayor, though — it’s because he lives in a neighborhood that would be directly impacted by the GDOT proposal.
“They usually come to the city once they get their plans set to what they think they’re going to do,” he said. “Some of this property they’re talking about using is city property. The property between 3rd Street and 41 belongs to the city … they’d have to purchase that from the city, and I think there’s some utilities there, too, that they’d have to move.”
Of course, it’s still very early on and that particular project is anything but set in stone. Pallone said he plans on speaking with GDOT representatives this week for more details; still, he said he doesn’t expect to hear a final decision from GDOT for at least another month or two.
Pallone said GDOT cost-benefit analyses are ongoing, but there’s a possibility that “two or three houses may have to go” to facilitate construction of the potential project.
“That’s something they’ll have to think about in their big plans, as far as where they’re going,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a better location if they’re going to do what they’re doing.”
From his perspective, however, Pallone said a more manageable solution would be simply installing another traffic signal.
“Now, they could just put a light in and not bother with my, or anybody’s, property," he said. “The road they’re thinking about is obviously going to be a lot more expensive than putting in a traffic light, just because of all of the impacts they’re going to face."