A Dunwoody group’s bid for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame took a hit after the City Council rejected a tax that would have raised $1.2 million to support it.
The Dunwoody Music Conservancy is competing with three cities for the museum, now located in Macon.
Groups from Athens, Woodstock and a group from Macon have all made a proposal for the facility, which honors musical greats such as James Brown, Jerry Reed and Blind Willie McTell.
Dunwoody, for its part, is the only city on the list that hasn’t guaranteed any public funding to the venture. Recently, some in the city’s business community looked to change that.
The board of directors for the Convention and Visitors Bureau recently approved a move to raise a hotel occupancy tax to 6 percent from 5 percent. The money reaped from the increase would have gone to the museum and efforts to market it in the Dunwoody area.
Dunwoody Councilman Danny Ross, who serves as the head of the Dunwoody Music Conservancy Inc., which was formed to attract the museum to Dunwoody, did not cast a vote.
Instead of sitting as a council member, he pitched the Hall of Fame to them. He said the tax increase would support the city’s economic development aspirations. The museum, if it located in Dunwoody, could draw hundreds of thousands of people in its first year.
“This is an economic development plan. We talk about wanting to be business friendly – this is an economic development plan,” he said.
The move to approve the tax increase on visitors to the city has moved along very quickly. On Feb. 4, the City Council gave first reading to an ordinance that would have allowed the tax.
In the meantime, the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau convened with its board of directors to approve the tax. At the council meeting Feb. 15, Brad Sturgeon, chairman of the board of directors for the bureau said the city’s hoteliers were behind the tax increase on their businesses.
He said the city is in need of a focal point for tourists and visitors that businesses can promote to attract more visitors.
“This is something that the (bureau) can nurture,” he said. “We can design packages to make this thing work.”
He also assured members of the council that the city wouldn’t be on the hook if the museum didn’t make money. State officials are looking for new venue for the Hall of Fame because it loses money and suffers from poor attendance in Macon
“If this asset fails there is no liability to the city of Dunwoody,” Sturgeon said.
The council disagreed on a 4-2 vote, with Ross not voting on the proposal. Mayor Ken Wright and Adrian Bonser supported giving the tax a second read. Other Council members raised concerns about the tax and the process for approving it.
Councilman John Heneghan, who was part of the vote to reject the tax, said that the board of directors didn’t properly call a public meeting to raise the tax. He referred to the tax as an “illegal, improper proposal” that he would not support.
The Dunwoody group’s bid for the Hall of Fame pushed for a tax after it was ranked last among the four proposals by the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Authority, which is expected to award one city the museum before an April 15 deadline.
Ross told the council that the local group has already secured $5 million in commitments from Perimeter Mall, which has space to host the museum in its formative years, and the Spruill Center for the Arts, which has committed to donating land for a permanent facility.
One of the hall’s biggest detractors was City Councilman Denis Shortal. He said the museum is a potential money pit, and it might not survive in a computer age that has created a dearth in attendance in many museums.
“I don’t see this as a fit,” Shortal said. “As we go down the road, will citizens of this city be asked to support it with their taxes?”