If progress isn't seen soon, the Pointe Vista Resort in Kingston may have seen the beginning of its demise.
In a special meeting Monday of the Marshall County Commissioners, a decision was made to impose a deadline on the Tax Increment Finance, or TIF, in place to help aid in the initial infrastructure of building Pointe Vista. Based on the newly imposed deadline, if substantial work hasn't been accomplished by May 31, 2014, Marshall County will no longer offer its aid to the project.
"Something's gonna have to happen," said Marshall County Commissioner Chris Duroy. "We passed [the TIF] in good faith that something was going to happen and it hasn't. [TIFs] work when everyone cooperates. But four or five years of nothing done is hurting local businessmen and residents that have invested in the area."
The TIF was passed in 2009 under some dissension in the county. However, the majority thought it would be a great idea to help aid the resort's construction, which was expected to increase the value of surrounding property and increase tax revenues.
But that was some time ago, and Marshall County residents have hit their breaking point.
"It started out positive, then there was a little dissension. Now, it's close to 90 percent of the people that don't believe anything is going to happen," Duroy said. "It's what our constituents want."
Pointe Vista Development, LLC purchased the land from the State of Oklahoma in 2008 for $14.6 million. The transfer was legal as long as the state agreed to create a new public park of equal value in return. Pointe Vista began planning a $500-million-plus gated retreat of condos, hotels, upscale homes and golf courses. But progress has been slow, and the communities are growing restless. If they are to meet the obligations set by the TIF deadline and their contract with the state, Pointe Vista would have to have a substantial part of a four-star hotel built before the 2014 deadline.
"I just don't see that happening. There's no way they can do it," said State Rep. Tommy Hardin. "It's growing increasingly frustrating, and the county asked me and my team to find a statute that could get them out of this if they wanted."
At the moment, the county isn't suffering economically from the lack of progress. Taxes have not increased more than normal, and the economic situation has stayed steady where many communities have fallen off over the last few years.
"It speaks volumes of our community members that we've been able to keep the communities afloat during tough times and while waiting on this project," Duroy said. "But they're not growing like other surrounding towns.
"People have bought property along the Highway 77 corridor anticipating this project getting off the ground. They've invested their time and money in this, and they're ready for some results."
Page 2 of 2 - Duroy said property owners are beginning to refinance businesses and shore up money for undeveloped property in the area now, anticipating some progress. But it's more expensive now than it was when the project was first announced, leaving some people contemplating if they should stay or not.
"There's undeveloped land that was meant for homes of the workers and for future businesses," Duroy said. "[Pointe Vista Development] took down the old lodge and some of the cabins, but that's it. Now, there's nothing but empty plots and old foundations. If you drive through that area, it looks like a war zone, and that's not what will bring tourism here."
Hardin said that area has great potential to be a tourist destination, comparing it to a "Branson-like" area if developed properly.
"It's a shame. There's a lot of potential there," he said. "Texas has three going up on their side, and we can't even get the one going on ours."
Recently, Hardin toured the area with Gov. Mary Fallin and other state officials to show the lack of progress on the project.
"We want to make sure they really know the situation, not just from pictures they see," Hardin said.
Though it is unlikely, the state could grant Pointe Vista Development another extension on the project, allowing them to sit on the property even longer. However, Hardin said there is talk of how Pointe Vista could get out of the contract.
"There's talk of a buyout, but that's it, only talk," he said. "We don't want this to go to court, but if they can't meet the obligations laid out for them in a contract that favored Pointe Vista heavily, then it may end up in a long, drawn-out ordeal in the courts."
If the state grants the extension, Duroy said it could have a bad effect on Marshall County.
"It's kind of a slap in the face. We thought we had good partners in this, but apparently not," Duroy said. "The governor can grant them an extension if she wants, but they won't get any help from us anymore if we don't see progress."