TDA to release $ 8 million in hotel taxes for Asheville and Buncombe
ASHEVILLE – The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, the body that controls taxes on hotels and accommodations, after three years will lift a freeze on a multi-million dollar fund that has been spent on projects ranging from billboards to orientation to sports complexes.
Now at $ 7.8 million, the fund was frozen in 2019 after residents reacted to a booming tourism industry that they believed was negatively affecting quality of life. The TDA has said it will rework how it uses the money to better benefit residents, but that process, the tourism management and investment plan, has been delayed by the pandemic.
At the TDA meeting on October 27, President Vic Isley announced a plan to put the fund back into service after the fall.
“We plan to get back to you, the TDA Board of Directors, before the end of this calendar year with the way forward with these funds, ensuring alignment with our broader community goals locally and with legislative requirements of the state as it will present itself at that time, “Isley said.
The Tourism Products and Developments Fund comes from 25% of the lodging tax, which reached a record $ 27 million after unprecedented sales during the pandemic marked by a surge in vacation rentals. The rest of the tax, 75%, goes to tourism marketing. Residents and city council have called for a higher percentage to go to the TPDF, but the state’s legislative efforts for change have stalled.
Isley did not respond to a message asking if she was aware of the progress of legislation.
His board update came a week after TDA member Andrew Celwyn, a longtime critic of how the tax is used, challenged the fund’s growth, saying there was no Had “no direction” from the staff on what to do with the money.
While the majority of TDAs are hoteliers, Celwyn owns an herbal and tea shop.
The fund would be larger, except for $ 5 million which was used through special state law to alleviate the pandemic to non-hotel tourism-related businesses.
Some of the biggest projects funded since 2002 include $ 6 million for the Enka recreation destination, $ 2 million for Pack Square Park and its pavilion, and $ 4.6 million for the redesign of the city’s River Arts District, including a green lane. Other projects have been criticized for favoring a company over a competitor or for participating in projects that were never built. In one case, orientation signs purchased with the fund were peeled.
While residents have benefited from some of the projects, they are required by law to increase hotel business.
In recent years, the TDA has excluded private companies from grants and turned more to large public projects after residents and local governments said the money would be better spent on public services, such as infrastructure. .
In March, the TDA adopted four strategic tourism “pillars” that are “rooted in broader community goals,” Isley said. They are: a balanced recovery and sustainable growth; safe and responsible travel; engage and invite more diverse audiences; and promote and support the creative spirit of Asheville.
Sley told TDA members the next steps would be to monitor any legislative changes regarding tax allocation and determine new project grant guidelines and a funding cycle. Much will depend on how county and city governments use the millions of dollars allocated to them for pandemic aid, she said.
“We want to be able to make the most of our dollars available in the TPDF … strategically for our community and in concert with that.”
Joel Burgess has lived at WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Help us support this type of journalism with a subscription at the Citizen Times.