Maggie Valley occupancy tax on the horizon
Maggie Valley may have the opportunity to create its own Tourism Development Authority for the purpose of promoting tourism in the town if House Bill 412 becomes law. Both the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen have expressed support for the idea.
The bill is sponsored by Western North Carolina Republican Representatives Mark Pless and Mike Clampitt. Filed in March, it originally included all of Haywood County as well as Bryson City, raising the occupancy tax from 4 to 6 cents in Haywood and creating a new tax for the town of Bryson. In the original bill, revenue from the tax could only be spent on a sports park, an amphitheater or a convention center. For Maggie Valley, these specific spending requirements didn’t make sense.
“It originally was going to be for Haywood County. And there were several people that opposed that because they couldn’t figure out what it was, what it was for and what it was going to be used for,” Pless said.
After the original bill had been filed, Pless said he tried to set up a public meeting with the TDA so the public could come ask questions or voice concerns about the bill. A date was not agreed upon and according to Pless, TDA Executive Director Lynn Collins did not like the bill.
When the bill came out of committee, it had been updated to include only Maggie Valley, now titled the Maggie Valley Occupancy Tax. According to Pless, the Town of Maggie Valley had expressed interest in having its own occupancy tax when the bill was introduced in its original form, so when issues began to arise with levying a higher tax in Haywood County, the bill was edited to be solely for the Town of Maggie Valley.
“Mark Pless has listened to a smaller community and he understands that A, we desire this and B, that we’ve proven that we can manage this properly,” said Maggie Valley Mayor Mike Eveland.
The new version of the bill gives the Town of Maggie Valley the ability to levy a 2 percent occupancy tax and create its own TDA to determine distribution of the tax revenue. At this point, the bill only permits the occupancy tax within Maggie Valley Town limits, not its extra territorial jurisdiction, which extends up Jonathan Creek Road.
“As the bill exists now, it does not include the ETJ, but it would be great if it included the ETJ,” said Town Manager Nathan Clark. “What’s good for Maggie Valley is good for its larger, surrounding area.”
Included in the legislation is a list of other towns that have created a TDA in order to spend revenues from an occupancy tax in the same manner laid out in this bill. Clark said that Maggie Valley could look to those towns for examples of what relationship a Maggie Valley TDA should have with the county TDA and how to set up the system for Maggie Valley to work in the best manner.
“If the bill passes this year, it will probably be one to two years before we move forward on creating a TDA,” said Eveland.
Eveland has made it clear he wants to have specific, achievable projects on the table before creating a TDA and levying the occupancy tax. According to the bill, occupancy tax revenues will be remitted to the TDA quarterly. Two-thirds of the revenue from the occupancy tax must be used to promote travel and tourism in Maggie Valley. The other third may be used for tourism-related expenditures, which can include capital expenditures.
The Board of Aldermen expressed support for the bill at its May 4 agenda setting meeting, noting that this had been something Maggie Valley has been interested in doing for years.
“This has been going on for a long time, the 2 percent topic of discussion, everyone in Maggie has been in favor for a long time,” said Eveland. “Pless has given us the ability to control our own destiny.”
Staff writer Cory Vaillancourt contributed to this story.