By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

New legislation to restructure the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority calls for a drastic overhaul of the organization while leaving much open to interpretation.

The overhaul was prompted by controversy over the TDA’s budget, particularly a new marketing plan that was unveiled in 2005. The marketing plan was devised after lodging tax revenue — a 3 percent tax on overnight stays at lodging facilities — started declining three to four years ago. The TDA wanted to fund new marketing initiatives in hopes of turning things around.

The Haywood County Tourism Development Authority gave out twice as much money in grants for festivals this year, quelling some of the controversy that erupted last year following cuts to festival funding.

The Haywood County Board of Commissioners have appointed two new members to the Tourism Development Authority board: Deborah Reed, a leader of the Canton merchant’s association FOCUS, and Art O’Neil, owner of Sunset Inn, Sunset Bakery and Sunset Café at Lake Junaluska, and Sunset on Main restaurant in downtown Waynesville.

A record number of applicants are seeking seats on the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority, likely spurred by the ongoing tug of war over the best way to spend $650,000 annually in tourism promotion dollars.

The tax on overnight lodging in Haywood County could be increased next year pending approval by the state legislature.

The Haywood County Tourism Development Authority has an extra $90,000 to spend and everyone seems to have an idea of how it should be put to use.

A study committee charged with examining the role and structure of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority will be formed in July and asked to report its findings to the Haywood County Board of Commissioners.

Joetta Rinehart, a member of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority board, recently moved to Asheville, throwing into question her legitimacy as a tourism board member.

The town of Maggie Valley could be getting more than it bargained for when it called on fellow towns in Haywood County to consider overhauling the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority.

Elected town and county leaders will be dragged into the Haywood County tourism saga this week.

They will be asked to weigh in on how much of the $600,000 in tourism tax dollars should be dolled out in the form of grants for events. The Haywood County Tourism Development Authority, a nine-member board, is granted oversight of money generated by a 3 percent tax on overnight lodging by state statute.

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