MADISON — Boone County Commissioners moved to commit up to $264,000 to a water project that would see a cabin resort perched on Mountaineer Drive off of U.S. 119 near Danville.
During a presentation to commissioners in June, Developer Donovan Pearson outlined his project, which would cater to visitors of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System.
“What I am proposing is 25 cabins in phase one, 20 cabins in phase two, and phase three and four would be engineered at a later date,” Pearson said. “What you’d have is a wash station for ATVs as you come off of the four-lane and a general store. We can offer things that others can’t, as you’ve got the town of Danville, the city of Madison and you have Southridge and Water Ways.”
The snag in the project is the cost of bringing water under U.S. 119; the project rings in at an estimated cost of $1.3 million.
Project Manager Terry Martin with the Regional Intergovernmental Council addressed the commission during its regular session on Oct. 5 regarding a Critical Needs Grant application.
“I wanted to let you know that we’ve done a lot of due diligence since we had the meeting the last time, and we’ve met with the water company to try to serve both the resort, the wire company on Mountaineer Drive and the three residents on Whitehouse (Road).”
Martin broke down the options for the county moving forward.
“We can’t apply for critical needs over a million dollars,” Martin added. “So, what we are proposing is to fund the wire company and the resort with regular funding on a 50/50 basis, and go back and serve the Whitehouse branch for about $350,000 to $400,000 under Critical Needs, which would be a 100% grant. The problem with Critical Needs is you can estimate a project for $950,000, but once the project goes over $1 million, all those funds go away because it states you can’t do that.”
The project can receive up to 50% funding from the Infrastructure Council, which leaves approximately $530,000 to complete the project.
Martin said commissioners have options.
“If the county wants to fund the difference out of part coal severance, part American Rescue funds, or not fund it at all, or what was mentioned at our last meeting — have the developer put in up to $200,000, and that was a figure he had. I’m suggesting he put up $250,000 or $260,000, and you match it 50/50.”
Martin concluded, “I have to have a commitment to show there are funds available to apply for that $500,000.”
Martin said the developer could possibly recoup part of that investment after one year, when the water company makes its financial contribution after monitoring the water usage of the residents and the pair of businesses.
After a discussion regarding the funding options for the county, commissioners took a vote regarding the commitment Martin requested.
“Personally speaking, if he (developer) would come up with half, I wouldn’t have a problem with it,” said President Craig Bratcher. “Is he going to do that?”
Commissioner Jacob Messer, Ed.D. added, “I know that Mr. (Donovan) Pearson has said that he has the support of Capito, Manchin, Stollings and Holstein, but I’d like to see these elected officials chip in some money, too. It is easy to write a letter, a lot more difficult to write a check — so it’d be nice if the onus wasn’t completely on the Boone County Commission.”
Commissioner Brett Kuhn added, “I completely agree that for the commission only to take that on is too much.”
Messer then said, “We need more people with skin in the game.”
Bratcher said the county has other projects he’d like to see funded.
“I don’t want to put all of our cookies in one basket and not have enough cookies to feed other things,” he said.
Through the motion made by Commissioner Kuhn, the commission allowed Martin to request WVIJDC maximum of the $500,000 grant and the commission would commit up to $264,000 from American Rescue Plan funding to the project, providing the developer matched that commitment. The motion received a second from Messer.
A Boone County native, Pearson said he is looking for more of a commitment from the county on the water project, but he is encouraged by the progress that has been made up to this point.
“Through the years, Boone County’s infrastructure has been neglected — and this is in no way the fault of our current commissioners, and this has become something they have to deal with now and I understand what they are facing,” he said. “The county has to be prepared and ready for developers to do business in Boone County. Water is a very basic need to do this.”
Pearson — whose family owns the proposed property — said the location is prime for the project he is presenting.
“We feel that this location is ideal,” he said. “Speaking to the Hatfield-McCoy representatives, members from state government and other resorts like Twin Hollow and the Ashland resort, they have been forthcoming with information we’ve gathered regarding whether this is a good business plan or not, and they agreed that being so close to the four-lane and being a cabin resort and not just a hotel or motel, it is a great spot. We want more than anything for this to happen right there, but we have to consider that there are other properties in Logan or Lincoln County that already have infrastructure that can be purchased for less than we’d have to contribute to put water in to this property. It is a tough decision for us to say we’ll sink another $250,000 into something that is a massive hole we are starting out of.”
Pearson said he believes the economic impact of the resort will pay dividends for the county and local businesses.
“Their business will not go down because of this project,” he said. “It can only go up. When you bring in 1,800 to 3,000 people visiting the area and spending money, it will obviously increase. The county will generate taxes and revenue.”
Pearson said he plans to attend the next commission meeting on Oct. 12.
“If we can negotiate a reasonable and fair split, they can vote by Tuesday and the grant application can be submitted,” he said. “The time frame is important because we can be grant-approved by the end of the year and we can get started as early as spring.”
Pearson said he hopes for a soft opening in fall 2022 with the first phase of the project completed and able to start doing business.
“You can’t view that county money going to this water line is just for one business,” he said. “There are three properties there that can be used for county business, and one is up and running.”
Pearson added, “I know that others are approaching them wanting a piece of the (American Rescue Plan) pie. What I see is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here of money given by the federal government specifically for infrastructure improvement in your county or cities. You have to invest that money into something that will make you that money back.”
The Boone County Commission meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 3:30 p.m., the third Tuesday of each month at 3:30 p.m. and the last Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. at the Boone County Courthouse Annex, third floor. Call 304-369-7303.