The Augusta City Council took steps to prepare to offer incentives to a group of investors who want to bring a new hotel to the city even though the entire council isn't sold on the project.
The council voted 7-0 with Matt Childers absent due to illness to ask bond counsel Kevin Cowan to prepare a charter ordinance to raise the city's guest tax rate to six percent.
The council also voted to hold a work session at 7 p.m. on Oct. 14, 2013 to discuss the issue further.
The developer and investment group have set a Dec. 1, 2013 deadline for the city to decide whether a list of incentives will be offered to the group to pave the way for the construction of a three-story, Best Western Plus hotel to be built in a vacant lot between the new Walmart and Susan B. Allen Clinic south of 7th Street on Augusta's west side.
One of the provisions requested by the investment group is an increase in the city's guest tax. The proceeds from that tax would be returned to the developer and investors for a number of years.
Cowan will draw up the Charter Ordinance for the governing body to consider at a future meeting.
Regarding the work session on October 14, Councilor Matt Malone was not prepared to even agree to that.
"We're so far apart from what they (the investment group) want and where we are, why waste two hours on a meeting?" Malone asked.
Councilor Mike Rawlings said he was interested in the work session because he may not agree with giving everything the group wanted but he at least wanted to consider a counter offer from the city.
Councilor Mike Wallace said he wanted to wait until a new city manager was in place to work on this issue, but the December 1 deadline would make that unlikely.
"We don't have that kind of time," Sue Jones said.
Mayor Kristey Williams is in favor of working out an agreement with the group in order to support further development along the 7th Street Corridor.
"I think we should do something," Mayor Williams said. "Of course, the return to the city has to be greater than what we put into it."