Maggie board at a stalemate on tourist tax hike

By Jessi Stone Assistant editor | Feb 28, 2013
Photo by: Jessi Stone Maggie Valley Aldermen Phillip Wight voted against supporting a 2-percent occupancy tax increase while Mayor Ron DeSimone and Alderman Saralyn Price voted in favor.

Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen will not be weighing in on the proposed occupancy tax increase after a Thursday vote resulted in a stalemate.

Alderman Phillip Wight made a motion to vote against the 2 percent occupancy tax increase. After sleeping on the issue since the public input hearing on Monday, he said he still couldn’t support it.

“I don’t even think it benefits moving Maggie Valley forward like you say it does,” he said. “To move Maggie forward, all the business owners are supposed to be together, and we’re not together.”

Like Waynesville or Asheville, Wight said there were other options for taxing districts, “but for y’all to release your 2 percent to the county level, I’m sorry I can’t support that.”

Alderman Saralyn Price said she disagreed.

“I personally think this would help Maggie more than anyone else in the county,” she said.

Mayor Ron DeSimone said seven of the 10 Haywood County Tourism Development Authority board members were representing Maggie Valley.

“We have a strong influence on the board as long as Maggie Valley people continue to apply for the board,” he said.

DeSimone also gave an update on the legislation process. He said Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, sent the TDA a draft of the legislation on Tuesday.

“And basically the county commissioners have been taken out of the equation,” he said. The change means the county wouldn’t have the final say on the implementation of the tax. “The TDA has final approval, which makes the Product Development Committee merely an advisory board.”

Robert Edwards, TDA board member and owner of The Holiday Motel, said that the language was still a work in progress and some things needed to still be added back and omitted.

The legislation language also altered the make up of the Product Development Committee, which will be responsible for vetting potential tourism capital projects and making recommendations to the TDA.

The board of county commissioners will select three members, one of whom must be a member of the Economic Development Commission; two members will be recommended by the TDA; and one member will be appointed from each of five zip code areas representing Canton, Clyde, Lake Junaluska, Maggie Valley and Waynesville. Those five members must be in a tourism-related business, according to Edwards.

The committee will also have four non-voting members, including the TDA executive director, county manager, county finance officer and the economic development commission.

“You’re still creating a tax on people who aren’t here yet… we’re supposed to create an environment that will bring people in,” Wight said. “Right or wrong I want to see the money spent in Maggie Valley.”

“I think it will be spent in Maggie Valley,” DeSimone said.

Wight and Aldermen Michael Matthews voted against the increase while Price and DeSimone voted in favor.

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