Rep. Presnell should listen to the majority of Haywood constituents

Jan 13, 2014

For decades, tourism in Haywood County has been driven primarily by our proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Lodging and meal options are limited at both national park sites, so neighboring counties are often the happenstance place visitors end up.

What’s lacking in the county is a variety of big-ticket draws that would specifically attract tourists to Haywood.

Consider this. If Camp Hope had developed picnic sites and trails on the 100-plus acres of property with several miles of stream access to the East Fork of the Pigeon River, just think how many visitors it could draw from the Parkway.

What if Maggie Valley had another attraction to augment the Wheels Through Time Musuem and Cataloochee Ski Area, such as the skating rink envisioned by town leaders to build upon the winter tourism industry?

While the national parks draw national and international visitors, communities have found much-needed economic boosts from sports league tournaments that attract hundreds of overnight visitors — and plenty of hungry players and fans. What if those players and fans had an outdoor swimming pool with plenty of water features to cool off in between games?

These type of projects have been relegated to the “dream” list, however, because funds simply aren’t available to develop them.

That could all change if a measure passes the N.C. General Assembly that allows the tax on overnight accommodations to be raised by 2 percent, something that would cost those staying in hotels, motels or vacation rentals about $1.50 a night for a moderately-priced room.

It’s not an amount likely to drive a price-shopping visitor to an adjoining county, but it does create a funding pool that could be used to make Haywood a more desirable place to visit.

Moreover, the amenities would create jobs and boost our overall economy during times when new manufacturing positions are a distant hope and high-tech jobs gravitate toward urban hubs.

The dream of a future with more jobs, an increased number of visitors and fun places to go that will benefit local residents, as well, is within reach. The challenge is to convince a lone legislator from Burnsville, Rep. Michele Presnell, that Haywood County residents are completely capable of building a better future through increased tourism. All we need is a single change in a law that already funds tourist promotion efforts in Haywood.

This change is about local control, a local dream and local prosperity. Haywood County elected leaders are virtually unanimous in their support for this measure, but unfortunately, these voices have gone unheeded to date.

It’s time for Haywood County residents to awake from their slumber and let Rep. Presnell know where they stand. If your child is involved in youth sports and you'd like a chance to stay at home for a tournament every once in a while, send a email.

If you support your local leaders in their quest to make their towns the best they can be, send an email. Be sure to send a copy to the rest of the legislative delegation, which is already behind the effort. This simple action could make a difference in your future, and the future of generations to come.

It is time to think big and take steps toward self-sufficiency on this issue. All we need is for the state of North Carolina to get out of our way.

 

How to contact your legislators:

Sen. Jim Davis

Jim.Davis@ncleg.net

District: 50

37 Georgia  Road, Franklin, NC 28734

Phone: (828)342-4483

Rep. Michele Presnell

Michele.Presnell@ncleg.net

District: 119

316 Woodstock Dr., Burnsville, NC 28714

Phone:  828-682-6342

Rep. Joe Sam Queen

Joe.Queen@ncleg.net

District: 119

209 Hillview Circle, Waynesville, NC 28786

Phone  — 828-452-4286

Comments (7)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jan 13, 2014 09:37

According to this paper, the 2% increase proposed will have an anticipated $495,000/year for Haywood County.  Since the tax is already 4%, then it stands to reason that the county already receives about $1,000,000/year from the existing tax.  The money collected from the occupancy tax is supposed to be used to market and promote the county as well as fund special events and festivals, with a goal of bringing more visitors to Haywood County.  Let's see the statistics on how that 4% is being spent for the last 5 years.  Let's see who prioritized the spending of those funds.  Did the spending of those funds measurably increase tourism to Haywood County?  Before we take the easy way and just take more -- can we first examine if the existing funds can be spent more effectively?  Does someone want to make a case that those funds should have been used to build picnic tables at Camp Hope instead of whatever else those funds did?  I keep seeing only half the story here: we want more -- but there's no documentation why $1,000,000/year isn't enough.

 

If my child gets an allowance from me, if they come to me asking for more, their request will not be seriously considered unless the request provides an accounting of what they do with their allowance and why they need more than the agreed amount.  And if I think they squandered their allowance and just want more, I very well might deny the request for an increase in allowance.  Otherwise, the same logic and process can be used repeatedly until their allowance exceeds my salary!

 

If there's no specific proposal on the table about what the increase in tax revenue will be used, then how did we determine that 2% will be enough?  Why not increase the tax 3% or 10%?  Who decided an extra 2% is what is "needed" and how did they make that determination?

 

Good grief!



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jan 13, 2014 10:04

Data to consider: Go online to book a room at the Waynesville Inn.  Today the "Room Tax" equals 16%.  That means a $100/night room will cost someone an extra $16/night.  Stay a 3-day weekend and their customers pay $48 in taxes -- the price of a nice dinner out at Clydes with tip.  The proposal on the table is to increase that "room tax" to 18%.  Again, when is it "enough" tax?



Posted by: jessi stone | Jan 13, 2014 10:56

The TDA keeps records of how the 4 percent is currently being spent — it is specifically earmarked for promotion and advertising and can't be spent on infrastructure. The additional 2 percent would only be used to build infrastructure.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jan 13, 2014 10:59

Regarding the effectiveness of big-ticket government projects that are intended to draw tourists, one only needs to look as far as Charlotte.  Nobody in Charlotte proposed creating a big-ticket item to create lasting financial burdens for taxpayers.  But they did it anyway.  Read how these big-ticket items turn out.  Remember, Haywood County is not heavily populated and whatever big-ticket costs will have to be paid by local property taxes and other taxes -- even if that means taking even more from schools because you just can't tax people more:

 

Arena: http://www.wcnc.com/sports/The-Charlotte-Hornets-asked-for-city-money-too-187372791.html

 

NASCAR museum: http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/blog/queen_city_agenda/2012/02/hall-deficits-higher-than-expected.html

 

Whitewater Center: http://www.wsoctv.com/news/news/whitewater-center-asks-for-more-taxpayers-money/nHC6P/

 

Where is the reporting on the viability of government spending to attract visitors?

 



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jan 13, 2014 11:49

"The TDA keeps records of how the 4 percent is currently being spent — it is specifically earmarked for promotion and advertising and can't be spent on infrastructure."

So as an alternative to taking more money, let's consider adjusting the earmark so that in addition to promotion and advertising, infrastructure can be considered.



Posted by: Allen Alsbrooks | Jan 26, 2014 14:24

Actually, if the new tax is collected it has been made apparent only "government selected infrastructure" will be permitted.  The ONLY projects which have been proposed by anyone in government so far is the $6,000,000+ (that's million plus) "sports complex" which was proposed a few years back on land the government already owns on Jonathan Creek. The other project which is apparently awaiting a green light from this additional tax is more ball fields in Canton.  Gatlinburg TN is opening their 80 acre sports center, Rocky Top Sports World, this Spring. Cherokee was once planning such a venue as well. Those two projects cost upwards of $20 Million.  Haywood County needs to find something unique to offer.

 

I have asked in many meetings if the additional tax could be used to fund venues such as a game room, skating rink, or bowling alley. Every single time the govern,ent answers with a resounding NO. Again, we need to offer a unique family experience. We have a few gems in our basket now but the commissioners and TDA refuse to help build them up.

The commissioners and TDA both have their eyes roll back in their heads and wet all over themselves when anyone of us challenge them. Heaven forbid we, who are actually in the tourism business, speak our minds or offer suggestions based on the views of the people who will actually pay the tax...people who visit and stay in our lodging facilities.



Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Jan 27, 2014 09:26

    Mr. Alsbrooks;

 

     At the very least, sir, you can remind said government representatives acting in OUR behalf, that their primary duty is to equally protect all interests as one. To play favorites or to unfairly target one buisness such as gee, I don't know, yours, is unconstitutional. Refference 14th Amendment, Federalist No. 10, etc. 

           Be fearless. As a Constitutional republic it is for We the people to stand up and "remonstrate"  in order to correct  errors of governance.

 

           C.Z.



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