CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — As the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors prepares to vote on a multi-million dollar tax break for a proposed waterpark and hotel complex, campaign finance records reveal that board chair Chris Winslow received thousands of dollars in campaign funds from the developer behind the project.
Chris Winslow has championed the project over the past few years, speaking in favor of the project at a board meeting in June 2021 and voting to approve a conditional use permit allowing construction to move forward. Meeting minutes record Winslow as touting the benefits the project would bring to the county tax base, which could benefit schools and public safety.
Campaign finance records, compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), show that in May 2022, Winslow received a $2,500 donation from Lake Adventures LLC, the company which now stands to benefit from a generous tax break.
Winslow’s campaign has also received $6,500 from developer Brett Burkhart and Waterford Park LLC since 2017. Burkhart is now the registered agent for Lake Adventures, and his company, Waterford Park, was associated with an earlier version of the project that received board approval.
Winslow did not exclude himself from the vote to approve the conditional use permit in 2021 – nor did he have any legal obligation to. The state law governing conflicts of interest explicitly states that campaign contributions should not be considered as creating a conflict of interest when officials consider legislation.
Campaign records also show that no other current board member has received donations from Lake Adventures, Burkhart or Waterford Park.
A Matter of Incentives
The tax break now under consideration, proposed by a representative of the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority as an incentive for the company to complete the project, would see the company receive a grant refunding 80% of the increase in the property’s assessed tax over the next ten years, dropping to 60% over the following ten years.
In practical terms that means that if the value of the property (currently valued at approximately $4.7 million) increased to $323 million – the amount cited in the grant proposal – the county would forego a little over $2 million in additional tax revenue each year.
But that tax break only applies to new value – so the company will pay full taxes on the current value of the land, and only receive a discount on the increase in value as phases of the project are completed. That makes it difficult to predict the true size of the tax break. If the project were to reach its full estimated value next year – which is unlikely – the total tax rebate would be $41 million over twenty years.
Supervisor Chris Winslow declined to offer comment on the record for this story.