There was a bit of opposition at last week’s public hearing to extend up to $1 million in tax increment financing rebates to the new owners of the OffShore Events Center and Baymont Hotel, but in the end, members of the Bellevue City Council unanimously approved the measure.
The move will aid the new owners, who are planning to spend about $6 million to expand all the facilities, which will include a new aquatics center and swimming pool.
The group wants to also expand the campgrounds, the restaurant and add boat docks, essentially making the entire riverfront property north of town a destination resort for tourism, which city leaders say will be well worth the money in the long run.
“This is a new opportunity to substantially grow the community,” said Dave Heiar of the Jackson County Economic Alliance (JCEA), who was present at the hearing to advocate for the proposed development. “What if we didn’t approve this and the development doesn’t happen? Then there would be no growth at all. If the tax base stays the same with no new development, then taxes will increase for everyone.”
Those in opposition at last week’s public hearing included Dave Kendall of rural Bellevue who owns property in Bellevue and Jackson County.
“The majority of taxes from this development won’t hit until 15 to 20 years. In the meantime, we are paying for someone else not to pay taxes,” said Kendall. “I am opposed to tax increment financing and tax rebates. I’ve been paying property taxes for 40 years and what do we really have to show for it?”
Darrin White, who lives on South Riverview, complained that taxes are too high in Bellevue already, and questioned why the city wasn’t helping the downtown businesses instead of the OffShore project.
“We have empty buildings sitting downtown and you want to spend a couple million dollars out there? Are there any assurances the new owners will do what they are saying?” said White. “Property taxes are very high in Bellevue and its ridiculous. As an average citizen, I am opposed to this.”
Mayor Roger Michels responded to White, saying that much is being done downtown, with the incentive program to fix up buildings, not to mention $1.5 million in private money being spent to renovate the old button factory building, as well as the Bob Ernst Insurance building, which will soon be home new larger riverfront space to River Ridge Brewing.
“In terms of the downtown, we are doing a lot – and in terms of the TIF, we are simply deferring some of the taxes. Would it be better to get the taxes later, or never? We have to move forward to grow the community.”
The sale of the Baymont Hotel, Off-Shore and campgrounds north of Bellevue was finalized in late November. With the new TIF extension in place, things should start moving quickly this spring and summer.
The buyers of the property, known as ‘Offshore Enterprises LLC’ include Steve Launspach, Peter Ludwig, Jason Germaine, A.J. Becker and Ryan Becker – all residents of the greater Dubuque area. Members of this group also own Coconut Cove Resort near Kieler Wisconsin, Whitetail Bluff Campground near Cassville Wisconsin, Dubuque Marina and Yardarm Riverfront Bar and Grille, Hawkeye Boat and Camper Sales in Dubuque, and Jason owns Germaine Electric.
The investor group was formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the Bellevue Offshore property from former owner and developer A.J. Spiegel, who built the facilities and opened them to the public in 2013.
Members of the investor group, simply called ‘Offshore Enterprises, LLC,’ several months ago first outlined a proposed $5 million to $6 million plan to expand the current Off-Shore facilities and add over 100 campsites, renovate the restaurant, expand the events center and construct a 6,000 square-foot swimming pool. The new ‘aquatics center’ would also feature a swim pond, playground, snack bar, poolside bar and resort store.
The amendment to the existing development agreement with A.J. Spiegel, who built the hotel and events center about eight years ago, was an arrangement for TIF benefits for 15 years. Under the newly amended agreement with the City of Bellevue, that agreement will be converted to the new owners. It had a $2 million limit that was set to expire in 2027. The newly amended agreement will increase the TIF limit to $3 million and extend the agreement out to 2032.
The overall purchase proposal offered to A.J. Spiegel by the investor group Off Shore LLC, includes the campground, Baymont Inn, restaurant, event center and undeveloped ground.
The development group is hoping that the proposed private/public partnership with the City will make the massive project possible, and say the plan would greatly increase tourism in the community, and the project would also bring with it more jobs and employment opportunities.
The proposed plans for the site include increasing recreational amenities. By May 2021, the campground will be expanded east to provide up to an additional 110 camping sites and the restaurant will be renovated with many enhanced features.
In 2021-2022 an aquatics center will be completed to include a new 6,000 square-foot swimming pool, deck, one acre swim pond with a beach and floating aqua park, jump pad, playground and a building for shower house, snack bar, poolside bar and resort store. After 2021 development could begin to expand the event center to hold closer to 450 guests along with adding a catering kitchen.
Seeking government permits for a future transient dock with boat fuel pumps will begin as well. Additional amenities and improvements are also anticipated in further years.
Details were provided on the group’s current businesses including a similar destination resort like Coconut Cove in Hazel Green, WI. The group anticipates drawing over 700 plus visitors for each summer weekend. Other businesses in the area should see an increase in tourism too.
In the end, if all goes well, the new development could be rolled out progressively over time, and be largely complete by the end of 2022.