Cobb County Commission delays vote on hotel tax

Cobb County commissioners delayed a vote Tuesday on a controversial proposal to add a $3 room tax on hotels throughout a large swath of unincorporated areas of the county — a tax that would raise an estimated $5 million a year for the Cobb Travel and Tourism agency.

Al Martin, chairman of Cobb Travel and Tourism, said his organization requested the delay so that it could speak to many of the hotel owners and managers who are opposed to the tax increase. Martin also said there has been considerable “misinformation” about the tax that needs to be cleared up.

Seven people spoke out against the proposed tax during the commission’s Tuesday meeting, with each receiving loud and sustained ovations when they were finished. The majority of those speakers were hotel owners or managers, who said the tax would hurt their businesses and would dissuade travelers from staying overnight in Cobb.

Nik Mainthia, with Wingate by Wyndham at the Douglass County line, said he thinks the tax is unfair and discriminatory because it would hit poor people hardest; it applies only to about one-quarter of the county’s hotels; and none of the impacted hotels were consulted.

Mainthia criticized the county for bringing forward the tax without first conducting an impact analysis.

“Is it fair?” Mainthia asked. “Is it legal? Is it discriminatory? These things happen when there is no impact analysis.”

There will be an additional two public hearings before the commission votes on the issue.

Commissioners also delayed a vote a request from the Cobb Department of Transportation for permission to use the legal process of condemnation to force the sale of small pieces of land and air rights needed for the construction of a bridge over Interstate 285 from the county’s convention center to the SunTrust Park development.

An attorney with the county told commissioners that a 30-day delay on the vote will allow negotiations to continue with land owners, and will not delay construction of the bridge, which the county hopes to open by April 2017, when the stadium opens.

In other county business, commissioners approved appropriating $26.2 million in additional funds collected from the 2011 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

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