While the state hasn't begun taking applications for the tax break, it's still generated controversy. A group of Savannah hoteliers and tea party activists protested last year when developers said they planned to seek the tax refund for a proposed convention hotel near the city's downtown historic district, which is already packed with hotels and inns. A Deal policy adviser cited the no-compete provision in an email to Savannah Rep. Ron Stephens, the law's author, saying the governor would likely deny the tax break for that project.
Stephens, the Republican chairman of the House tourism and economic development committee, said he believes the Jekyll Island hotel deserves the tax break. But if Deal's office has already tentatively turned down a similar project in Savannah, "that does create a real dilemma to say the least," he said.
"They're both convention hotels, but that's where the similarity ends," Stephens said. "We don't have an investment in Savannah that is massive and was made to revitalize tourism. But there's a lot of taxpayer exposure by not getting this convention hotel on Jekyll Island in the works."
David Curtis, a spokesman for the Jekyll Island hotel developer, said his firm and Jekyll Island officials are still working with the lender, PNC Bank, to reach an agreement on the $25 million loan.
"I have every confidence that we will find a resolution that enables the project to move forward," Curtis said in an email.