In June, the Camden County Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with Peninsula LLC and local developer Danny Foster for a major waterfront resort and convention center in Osage Beach.
According to the original press release from Lookout Point Consultants, "The resort will sit in a 37-acre tract on the lake near the intersection of Business Highway 54 and Route KK. The 250 room resort will feature restaurants, convention space, entertainment, a full-service marina, rentals, community facilities and more and is proposed to bear the name of a major 4-star hotel flag upon completion of certain parts of the development process."
The project is being overseen by Senate Hospitality of Nashville, a development, management and consulting firm and in the agreement, Peninsula LLC stated plans to prepare and file a TDD (Transportation Development District) and CID (Capital Improvement District) petition and potentially elect to pursue a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) to help finance the development.
On Thursday, Foster and Glenn Malone, CFO of Senate, met with the Commission to discuss changes in their plans and the overall direction and feasibility of the project, which may now rest in the pockets of citizens of Camden County.
After conducting a market feasibility study, according to Malone, he has advised Foster to develop a select-service hotel, like a Hilton Garden Inn, because it is a lot easier to get a smaller one financed and quite a bit more expensive for a full-service hotel. The new estimated cost of the hotel is roughly $45 million, which would be financed through Peninsula.
“With Glenn and in addition to our market study it was pretty clear: you’re going to have to get every tax incentive and build a convention close by to make this work,” Foster said. “We’re gonna need help with the convention center.”
However, Second District Commissioner Cliff Luber was adamant in his thoughts on the County footing any part of a roughly ballpark estimate of $20 million cost of construction.
“I’m not interested in a sales tax or the County becoming involved in financing this project and I don’t think the County voters are interested either,” Luber said. “The only reason I would be in favor of a TIF is because it’s a one-time thing, you’re not going to have two convention centers. If there is a demand for this project, private investors will build it.”
Malone, who has developed and marketed hotels across the country for over 20 years, countered with the potential benefits of the project.
“Our plan is to bring a first class upscale hotel that would support a convention center, and together with the convention center, would bring business to the area. “We call these kind of developments demand generators, it gives people a new reason to come,” Malone said. “We're looking to bring new business and the project we have programmed will do that. To get that hotel to work, you still need a convention center to support the business.”
Foster said Peninsula is in the process of naming a CID Commission and the County should have the petition within the next few days. According to the study, the CID would generate between $150,000-$180,000 a year under a strictly user-based 1 percent tax on purchases. The next phase is the TDD petition which Foster has turned into the Circuit Court and expects no issues. According to the study, the TDD would generate $150,000 a year for paid parking which could be used for the cost to developing that parking.
After that, Foster has to decide whether to pursue a TIF in Camden County or the City of Osage Beach, who has a TIF Commission in place. Camden County has never issued a TIF, but does have a policy and can appoint a commission. The difference is a TIF in that area in Osage Beach would add an additional 2 percent sales tax on that property to the 2 percent sales tax in place in the city. If Foster uses the county, the two percent CDD and TDD is essentially free because no one else pays for it unless staying there or using those facilities.
The two sides began to discuss at length several different options of how the County could afford the cost of a convention center. Most of the ideas revolved around the raising of one or more taxes, but the Commission was skeptical of the likelihood voters would support that.  
Malone assured the Commission most convention centers are owned by civic entities and not hotels because they benefit the community and surrounding area more so than a private developer. For example, the Branson convention center reportedly lost $300,000 last year, but generated $18 million in sales tax for the area. He said there was no plans to take away from the current budget and the plan would have to be incremental from some other, most likely tax based source.
“If we try to do just a tourism tax you’re not going anyone on the outlying county to vote for it, if you just try to do a road tax well that's not going to benefit anyone in Osage Beach, Camdenton or Horseshoe Bend, they don’t get a dime benefit for a sales tax increase,” Presiding Commissioner Hasty said. “I am fearful about passing anything.”
The Commission explained previous efforts in 2006 and 2011 to get the County involved in a convention center project, but neither time could garner any support from the public.
“I think it would be great for the community, I think it would be a nearly impossible sell,” First District Commissioner Bev Thomas said.
One potential idea Foster proposed was a 1/8th percent sales tax increase that would supposedly generate $1 million a year which would go to the cost of construction, estimated at $20 million, to build the convention center. A sales tax increase only requires one vote, where as a property increase would require a vote to repeal the rollback tax put in place and then another vote to raise that tax.
“Sales tax is a tough sell, even it it’s just 1/8th of a percent,” Luber said. “I just don’t think there's anyways we can use tax payer dollars for this and I don’t think we should.”
However, Foster said he didn’t agree with that cost analysis and plus, he had an incentive tucked up his sleeve.
“I see the obvious benefit, If i donate the land, then fine,” Foster said, estimating that would lower the cost of the construction by roughly $3-4 million. He added with the CID and TDD funding certain areas that would knock off another couple of million dollars to the overall cost as well.
“That changes some things,” Hasty said. “Certainly the location being right next to the Arrowhead Center and the west side of Osage Beach which needs that growth, is great. But we’re in such a compromised situation with our road situation around here.”
The Commission expressed concerns with the use of public money on essentially a private development, although the convention center would essentially benefit the area as well. They all agreed it would be a benefit and positive to the area, and with the first two phases of the Arrowhead Center project financed and ready to go, these two projects could provide a potential boom west of the Grand Glaize Bridge.
“I didn’t come here to sell you specifically on a sales tax,” Foster said. “You do need a road tax, if you put the two together, not only do you get the folks who need the road, you get the folks who need the west parkway stabilized.”
The two sides agreed it would take a well-thought and well-strategized plan to sell any potential tax increase plan to Camden County voters, but agreed that was the best way to success.
“I'm convinced the massive amount of growth that’s going to hit the Lake of the Ozarks is still coming,” Hasty said. “We’re discussing a project this area needs, how are we going to get there?”
That question is yet to be answered, but it appears Camden County can expect some public meetings in the near future about whether or not they want any part in developing a convention center.
“The hardest part of this project is to keep moving,” Foster said. “These kinds of things die in conversations, they die in anecdotes.”