The Madera County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote next month on a $20 million project that would bring an upscale hotel and conference center to Oakhurst.
The facilities would be built near the Hounds Tooth Inn over a projected three to four years. The hotel would consist of about 120 rooms and the 10,000-square-foot conference center would fit as many as 500 people, said District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler.
“I think it would be one more straw in our hat. One more reason to come up here to eastern Madera County,” Wheeler said. He said it would also create at least 100 jobs for the community.
The development group tasked with planning and building the facilities, Zero Capital, came to an agreement with Madera County that, in exchange for its involvement with the project, they would receive 50 percent of the transient occupancy tax (TOT) from the proposed hotel over 25 years.
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TOT is a tax placed on all lodging costs across California, which varies from region to region. Madera County’s TOT is 9 percent.
Wheeler estimated the county and Zero Capital would split $15 million over those 25 years.
Gautam Patel, principal of Zero Capital, explained the incentive was requested due to the group not seeing any financial return from the conference room, the driving force of the project. He assured the group is not making out with any extra money.
“The way that it’s structured is that we will be recouping the investment we put into this over 25 years. We’re not trying to get anything that we’re not putting into the project,” Patel said.
Also, Zero Capital will not begin to receive their incentive until the project is completed.
Patel said the goal of the facility is to bring people to the area when the tourism dies down by providing a conference center and hotel suitable for corporate meetings and gatherings. He said facilities of the quality of the proposed hotel and conference center are not available in Oakhurst.
“It’s gonna be on par with something you would see at resort, but with a bit of a natural touch to it,” he said.
Hotel rooms will draw inspiration from cabins, while also maintaining an “upscale” feel.
Since the announcement of the project, the community has already begun voicing concerns. Wheeler said one of the community’s biggest was the hotel and conference center’s water supply and whether it would impact the community’s.
He said the hotel would be operating on a private water well, completely separate from what the public uses.
Others argue that Tenaya Lodge offers the same exact capabilities as this proposed project. But Tenaya Lodge is actually located in Mariposa County — so Madera County does not benefit from any of its foot traffic.
Last year, visitors spent a total of $145.3 million on stays in hotels and motels in Madera County and Wheeler said there is always room for growth.
“If you’re not growing all the time, you’re going to die on the vine,” Wheeler said.
There are three other hotels still being constructed in Oakhurst. They have been under construction for five years due to a number of delays caused by a number of procedural violations, including starting work before building permits were issued.
Zero Capital has already made tentative renderings of what the hotel could look like, but Patel was quick to point out that these are in no way finished and development will continue if the project is approved.
The supervisors will vote on the project during an Oct. 16 public forum at the Oakhurst Community Center, as part of their “On the Road” series.