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County pulls out of bond backing

Developer plans senior community

POSTED: September 13, 2013 12:30 a.m.
 

Forsyth County commissioners have reversed course on assisting with a tax-exempt $45 million bond for development of a senior living community.

The commission voted 5-0 on Tuesday to deny a second ratification of the revenue bond issue for Improved Living-Towne Club Windermere Assisted Living, which hoped to develop a high-end facility with 142 housing units on Trammel Road.

The Forsyth County Development Authority and the commission signed off on the sale of bonds for the project in spring 2012. But since a year passed before the deal closed, Internal Revenue Service regulations require renewed approval for the issue to move forward, County Attorney Ken Jarrard explained.

No aspect of the project — including the stipulation that the privately financed bond would have no bearing on the authority or the county's finances or credit — had changed since the initial approval, Jarrard said.

Commissioner Todd Levent expressed his continued concern with the project’s plans for funding.

“About the time that this all came up, there were other senior living projects that were able to get their own loan, that were able to pay the normal interest rate, put together their own business plan,” Levent said. “It comes down to whether or not we feel we’re giving this developer an unfair advantage in the free market system or not.”

The bond issue had been delayed due to a change in the underwriter and the time to obtain the necessary documents for the transaction, said Bill Holby, an attorney representing the development authority.

“The underwriter would not go to market with the bonds until they were certain that the project was ready to be completed,” he said.

“What’s happened in the intervening period is that there’s been an acquisition of real estate, the completion of all the design and engineering steps and the actual execution of the construction contract. That’s taken a long time.”

The revenue bond funding assists nonprofits with development by providing a tax-exempt loan and low interest rate through the development authority, Holby said, giving past examples of issues for Goodwill and the YMCA.

Improved Living is a nonprofit that has a development agreement with Almquist Hansen to build Towne Club Windermere, billed as a high-end senior living facility.

Almquist Hansen, based in Kennesaw, initially came to Forsyth County in spring 2011 with a proposal for a nearly $4 million U.S. Housing and Urban Development Section 108 loan to help fund construction of Towne Club at Windermere.

The project qualified for that type of HUD loan because it would reportedly have created jobs for low-to moderate income workers.

The developer withdrew its request to the county in December 2011, after commissioners voted not to hold the next required public hearing, indefinitely stalling the process.

 

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