By ABBY SOUZA
The historic Evergreen Lodge could receive a $1 million loan through the Community Development Block Grant program, if the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors Tuesday agrees to let owners apply for the loan.
The 15-acre Evergreen Lodge site, off Highway 120 a mile from the northern border of Yosemite National Park, has 18 cabins and a lodge with a restaurant, bar and general store.
The lodge's owners Lee Zimmerman and partners Dan Braun and Brian Anderluh want to expand to 60 cabins, according to a memo about the project from county Administrator C. Brent Wallace to the board. The total project is expected to cost $6.5 million, with $5.5 million to come from private lenders.
The owners have entered into a partnership with Juma Ventures, an employment and development program for San Francisco youth, whereby the young people work at the lodge and thereby spend time away from the city.
Expansion of the lodge will increase the job openings and allow owners to operate the business for a longer period of time each year.
Community Development Block Grants are state and federal money given to counties or cities to loan to businesses. Once the business pays the money back, that money is again loaned out to another business in the county.
Assistant County Auditor Debi Russel says the county has used the "revolving" grant programs to loan money to several other sectors in Tuolumne County.
"It's a really good program," she said.
Businesses must meet certain criteria to be eligible for the loans, said Russell. One is that they provide more jobs to county residents. It is expected that Evergreen Lodge's expansion will create 30 more full-time jobs at its site.
According to Wallace's letter, the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), the group in charge of the grant program, has visited Evergreen Lodge and believes it is a worthy project for the program. HCD would like to see an application from the lodge for the loan if the county supports the project.
Wallace's letter also states if the business does not make its payments on the loan or create the promised jobs, the county will seek repayment, even it if has to foreclose on the property.
The $1 million is more than what the county is usually allowed to get from HCD in a grant year, but according to Wallace's letter, the HCD will lift the cap for this year.
The board will vote whether to authorize the creation of a loan application for Evergreen Lodge after approving the consent calender at their Tuesday meeting.
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