Green Box Festival Founder Pursuing Plans for Major Three-story Hotel
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
During the next year, Green Mountain Falls’ civic leaders, planners, trustees, and residents will grapple with the most extensive annexation bid for a private development proposed in years.
The GMF Planning Commission recently conducted the first of many scheduled discussions regarding an annexation bid, proposed by the Historic Green Mountain Falls Foundation and Christian Keesee, the founder of the Green Box Arts Festival.
Conceptual plans were presented by Foundation representative Jesse Stroope in the first stage of a 16-step process for the annexation of nearly 32 acres, comprised of two main parcels. It’s not clear if the Green Mountain Falls Board of Trustees will address the issue at this week’s (Dec. 3 ) regular meeting, but the subject is expected to command center stage attention shortly.
The annexation bid will involve many public meetings.
“The citizens will have plenty of time for public input on this. Nothing will be done behind closed doors,” commented Dick Bratton, vice-chairman of the Green Mountain Falls Planning Commission. Bratton, a long-time resident, stressed that a lengthy process is involved in handling an annexation proposal of this magnitude.
According to sources, the initial reaction to the plan has been mostly positive, in lieu of the success of previous lodging projects done by Keesee, who has taken a strong interest in the community. Proponents say the project will provide a boon to the community and help attract more visitors and tourists.
The subject of annexation, though, is a controversial one in Green Mountain Falls, with residents often quite divided on matters concerning future commercial growth. At the same time, a recent comprehensive plan for GMF cited future annexation as one probable solution for generating more revenue for the town.
In essence, the annexation plan would set the wheels in motion for a planned three-story hotel at the former Joyland Church property, near town hall and the future fire station, currently under construction, and associated developments.
Rumors have abounded regarding the project for the last year and a half when the church property was acquired. Project plans also call for the addition of a high-quality restaurant.
Talk about the project has circulated in town circles for some time, with little formal action taken until the recent annexation bid.
But according to previous comments by Stroope, the development would have to overcome some stern infrastructure requirements, especially in the area of septic and wastewater guidelines, a stumbling block that has thwarted previous commercial developments.
Bratton cautioned that the annexation bid won’t occur overnight and could take at least a year to complete if the applicants want to pursue the project. According to the annexation paperwork submitted at the recent planning commission meeting, the bid would take in two main parcels, referred to as the Red Mountain Devil Mountain and Joyland Church parcels.
Bratton said the planning commission would mainly address the land use and zoning issues, while the trustees would handle details of the annexation agreement.
First Major Commercial Annexation Bid
Bratton said the town did do a fairly substantial annexation of the Garden of Eden trail area involving about 100 acres. But the Red Devil and Joyland parcels represent the most substantial annexation for private development.
In the past, the town has entertained some innovative annexation bids that never quite materialized.
The new hotel proponents, though, aren’t asking for any incentive perks from the town. In their petition, they mainly make it clear that the “town of Green Mountain Falls shall not be required to assume any obligation respecting the construction of water mains, sewer lines, gas mains, electric service lines, streets, or any other services or utilities in connection with the property proposed to be annexed except as may be provided by the ordinance of the town of Green Mountain Falls.”
The annexation petition lists 11 reasons why the parcels should become part of GMF. They mostly deal with technical requirements, such as stating that a “community of interest exists between the town and the territory proposed to be annexed.”
If approved, the town’s economic landscape could change, with this section of GMF bustling with activity. Besides serving as the future home of a new hotel, this section of town near the west entrance and exit of GMF from Hwy. 24, abounds with an $800,000 town hall and a currently constructed 24/7 fire station for the Green Mountain Falls/Chipita Park Fire Protection District.
Keesee has been the driving force behind several other lodging projects, such as the Outlook Lodge and the Little Beaver Inn. He also is the founder of the Green Box Arts Festival, which celebrated its 10th-year-anniversary last summer.