Occupancy tax gets approvals

By Allison Richmond | Feb 15, 2017
The Tiki Bar at Maggie Valley Inn is a big draw for summer tourism, money from which could go to benefit local projects if the occupancy fee increase is approved.

In a move that brings the region a step closer to reenergizing the tourism industry, town leaders in Maggie Valley and Waynesville unanimously passed a resolution in support of the proposed occupancy tax fee increase.

According to research presented by Lynn Collins, executive director of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority, Maggie Valley, in fact all of Haywood County, is missing out on tourism dollars that other counties are capitalizing on.

She said that other tourism hotspots like Asheville and Gatlinburg average a higher daily hotel rate and already have occupancy tax rates around the proposed 6 percent, opposed to Haywood’s 4 percent fee.

If approved at the state level, visitors would see about $2 added to their daily room costs, she said.

The extra money raised would go directly to benefit Haywood County residents by returning the money to communities to build new facilities, such as parks, attractions, and economic development projects.

Maggie Valley Alderman Mike Eveland, who also sits on the TDA board, spoke in favor of the proposed occupancy fee increase, citing the much-needed improvements the money could fund.

“Maggie has already been able to do a lot with the TDA money, but we could do so much more,” he said.

“As a county we are way behind the times without this funding. This is brick and mortar stuff we are talking about, real structures and improvements that could be made, with tangible benefits.”

Another side benefit, he noted, is that using funding generated from tourism dollars frees up money from municipal budgets for capital projects that may otherwise go unfunded.

Under the new proposal that is making the rounds of the municipalities, 50 percent of the money raised, estimated at around $650,000 annually, would be returned directly to the local zips codes, much like the 1 percent funding is now.

The remaining 50 percent would go into a general TDA fund for capital improvements.

Groups looking for project funding could apply directly to the local funding allocations first and then to the general fund for the use of the whole county for larger projects.

Referencing the failed attempt to move a similar action forward a few years ago, Collins said, “We’re getting left behind by neighboring areas in terms of funding, We’ve already lost out on a few years of being able to build this fund, so here we are again.”

After more than a year of revamping the proposal, it was recently approved by the TDA board. The board of county commissioners recently passed a resolution in support of it by a vote of 4-1, with Brandon Rogers dissenting.

From there it went to the Town of Canton, which, like Maggie and Waynesville, also approved a resolution supporting it.

Waynesville Alderman Jon Feichter called the fee increase, "absolutely critical."

"We are operating with one hand tied behind our back without it," he said.

Only Clyde remains to decide if it will support the proposal, then it moves to local state representatives for sponsorship in Raleigh.

Only if passed at the state level will the county be eligible to implement an occupancy fee increase.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Ron Rookstool | Feb 15, 2017 08:52

Bet anything Presnel will block it once again. Love it that the local government seems to have no say, still controlled by state GOPs.

Posted by: Joe Vescovi | Feb 15, 2017 09:16

Isn't Ms. Presnell suppose to support the wishes of those she represents in Haywood County??  If every local agency votes for the increase I would hope she would also support their efforts.

Posted by: Beth G. Johnson | Feb 15, 2017 17:27

If Ms. Presnell does not try to follow the wishes of the voters and local government, WHY was she re-elected again, this past November?


Posted by: Ron Rookstool | Feb 16, 2017 06:48

She was only re-elected because all the Republicans were re-elected because of the large turnout for Trump. Had nothing to do with her as an ineffective  politician. The Smoky Mountain News wrote an excellent article about a year ago on Presnel which was obviously not read by most of the voters.

Posted by: John C Sanderson | Feb 20, 2017 14:36

Ms. Presnell is a "tea party" Republican. She owes her position in the legislature to a literally scurrilous campaign against Ray Rapp in 2012, funded at the time by various outside committees and funding entities. I will never forget the colorful fliers that found their way into my mail box during the closing days of that disgusting campaign, with pictures of two male cartoon characters holding hands, dressed in wedding garb, with the caption below implying that Ray Rapp promoted same-sex marriage in NC.


Unthinking and gullible voters probably believed such nonsense, and they voted against the "immoral" Mr. Rapp. The full truth of the matter, however, was that Mr. Rapp - a caring, concerned, and competent gentleman who was respected by everyone who knew him, regardless of political affiliation - simply voted, "No" on the bill to approve a statewide referendum to amend the NC Constitution to ban "gay marriages."

And why did Mr. Rapp vote, "No?"

Because he was intelligent and competent enough to know that "gay marriage" was already banned by statute in NC (in other words, it would be a referendum to change NOTHING), and that the significant cost of the meaningless referendum would be a complete waste of taxpayer money.


So, I suppose Mr. Rapp fell into the trap that was set for him and others by casting a common sense and principled vote, rather than one driven by self-serving political considerations, and he lost the 2012 election by a razor thin margin. Ms. Presnell, from all indications, was selected to run by Republican state leaders primarily because of her lack of experience with governance (a "blank slate," if you will), her absolute willingness to toe the tea party line of "no new taxes," and her promise to follow the lead of state Republican party leaders on all legislative matters.


So, what we have now in the 118th District (which has been gerrymandered into pretty much a "safe district" by the Republican majority) is a tea party purist who has the support of the movers and shakers in Raleigh because of her unquestioning loyalty to them and their agenda. Ms. Presnell "represents" the interests of downstate politicians like Phil Berger and Tim Moore infinitely more faithfully than she "represents" anything other than some local tea party efforts in and around the 118th District.


Although I'm not counting on it, I will be very pleasantly surprised if Ms. Presnell does the right thing in this matter, and she accedes to the almost unanimous desire by local Haywood County governmental bodies to raise this occupancy tax to help fund additional efforts to stimulate our local economy. Locally elected officials know what Maggie or Canton or Waynesville (which, of course, is not even in Ms. Presnell's district) need much better than someone who resides in Yancey County, and who seems reluctant to even discuss the issues openly with Haywood County's elected officials.


It seems to me that this boils down to a simple matter of respect. Does Ms. Presnell respect the elected leaders in Haywood County enough to allow them to take what they see as a prudent and necessary step to help boost our local economy? Or will she continue to stand in their way as a tea party/"no new taxes" Republican purist?

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