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2012-10-25

Lone councilman denies more support for new hotel

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Despite the continued efforts of some City of Bandera elected and appointed officials, a perception continues that the municipality does not welcome new businesses. Surprisingly, it appears that, in fact, some elected officials seem not to understand that "gestures of good will" can go a long way when trying to attract new businesses to the city.
On Oct. 17, a newly reconstituted Economic Development Corporation unanimously approved a maximum of $2,500 to fund a feasibility study requested by developers of Old Texas Square. Developers offered to pay for the rest of the study, but the gleaned information, data and statistics would belong to the city and be applicable to other locations.
During a special city council meeting on Monday, Oct. 22, Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Schumacher, along with City Manager Mike Cardenas, suggested that the city pay for the rest of the feasibility study as a gesture of good will to the developers. "Mike and I feel funding the study in its entirety would show that the city can work with the EDC and new businesses. We want to encourage new businesses within the city."
Almost immediately, Councilman John Hegemier put the kibosh on the plan, saying, "While I support the hotel, they need some skin in the game, too. The city shouldn't be too willing to pay for half the study."
"The developers have paid at least $500,000 for the complex and its demolishment and the EDC has funded half the study," Schumacher said. "As of right now, the city is the only one with 'no skin in the game'."
Referencing continuing speculation that the city does not welcome new businesses, Schumacher continued, "This would be a sign we're interested in having a new hotel here and a concrete way to show support."
Concurring, Councilman Nancy Montgomery said that she had also heard a rumor that city council had prevented an EconoLodge from being built in Bandera.
Councilman Binky Archer said, "The feasibility study would also give traffic during for various events, space requirements and an idea of other vendors and shops that would be compatible with the city."
"It would also answer questions about other amenities the city might need, such as a conference center and appropriate and complementary shops. It would be more than just a feasibility study for the hotel," Schumacher said.
Hegemier said the city has shown its support of a new hotel in many ways. When pressed for more details, he said, "The EDC funded half the feasibility study and the EDC is funded by city tax dollars and city council approved it."
Hegemier seemingly lumped together the city and the EDC - and their respective monies - together as a single entity. However, this belies his earlier contention that a boot sculpture, purchased by the EDC for $3,000, could not be co-opted by the city, but rather would need to be "purchased from EDC by the city." The boots, however, were originally purchased with taxes collected by the city and would be purchased with tax money.
Hegemier continued, "There would be no additional benefit by funding the entire study."
"You don't see that this hotel would bring jobs and economic benefit to the city?" Archer asked him.
"I think the city has shown enough support," Hegemier countered.
City resident James Hannah, also a candidate for city council, supported Hegemier's contentions that the city has done enough for the potential project and the developer too little to date. "I don't think the developers can distinguish between the EDC and the city," he said. Also forgetting EDC approved paying half the study, he added, "City government needs to be proactive but they don't need to fund the entire study. Capitalism puts up a capital investment. The developers should have something to put into it." Hannah also took exception because the city does not yet have "something in writing" from the developers.
"If the city funds the rest of the feasibility study and the hotel isn't built, would we get reimbursed? Hegemier asked.
"Probably not," said City Administrator Mike Cardenas.
In the end, Hegemier cast the lone nay vote in the 3-1 decision with Schumacher, Archer and Montgomery voting for the city to fund the remainder of the feasibility study. Councilman Brandi Morgan was absent.
In a later interview, Schumacher said, "Not to be unkind, but I find the thought of Jim Hannah lecturing city council on capitalism rather disconcerting. A true capitalist would realize the advantage of spending $2,500 to move forward a potential $5 million project. These notions that the developers have 'no skin in the game' seem to be a false economy on the part of Mr. Hegemier and Mr. Hannah."