PIGEON FORGE — City Commission didn’t take long Monday in approving plans for a tax abatement on the international residence hall being built at Dollywood.
Ground was broken earlier this year on the four-story, 136,000-square-foot facility, which is located on Dollywood property but will be built and managed by Holtz Builders.
It’s expected to have dorm-style housing for 780 people, with 96 units set aside for students in the Southern Hospitality Internship Program — the county’s new initiative that brings students from colleges and universities across the nation to complete internships at local tourism-related businesses.
The other units will be used for international students who come here on J1 visas — temporary work visas that are valid for up to 18 months.
Dollywood, the county’s largest employer uses J1 students to supplement its staff. The housing will be available to other workers as well, according to the terms of the agreement.
“Housing shall be available for workforce participants who meet the facility and housing requirements of the facility manager,” the proposed terms state.
“During the terms of the (Payments in lieu of taxes), use of the facility shall not be solely exclusive to Dollywood or Dollywood entities.”
Commission had been set to vote on the resolution in August, but Commissioner Ken Maples had asked for that point to be made clearer in the proposed terms.
The agreement also says the rooms will not be used for overnight rentals, with a possible exception included if there is ever an emergency or a situation where there is no overnight rental capacity in the city.
The resolution approved Monday gives the city’s Industrial Development Board permission to enter into a payment in lieu of taxes agreement for the project.
The IDB would hold ownership of the property, and Holtz Builders would pay $1 in lieu of taxes for 13 years — three years for construction and 10 years of operations.
Dollywood is expected to use a portion of the building for offices and storage, and the city would still receive property tax payments for that section of the facility, according to the proposed terms.
Also Monday, commission approved an exception to its prohibition on food trucks in the city, allowing the facilities for city-approved special events.
The new exception won’t allow for any kind of permanent food truck park, but will allow them to be used during special events.
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