BCTDA to allow remote public comment, prepares for board changes

Explore Asheville building
BACK IN ACTION: The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority held its first in-person meeting in over a year on July 28. The authority plans to continue streaming its proceedings as well as take remote public comment. Photo by Max Hunt

The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority held its first in-person meeting in 16 months on July 28. But even as its members shared the same room, they planned to expand their virtual accessibility.  

The authority’s board meetings, which pre-pandemic were frequently streamed and recorded by local governmental transparency project Sunshine Request, have been held virtually during the last year and a half due to COVID-19. The quasi-governmental body will continue to make its proceedings available via Zoom or another virtual platform, and recordings will be posted to the BCTDA’s website.

And unlike Asheville and Buncombe County governments, which ended the practice of live remote comment after their return to in-person meetings, the BCTDA will continue to allow members of the public to call into live meetings to comment — an option that was not offered before the pandemic. In-person comment will also be accepted.

“We had a discussion at the board meeting last month that, as we returned to in-person meetings, there was a desire to keep the transparency and openness for virtual meetings. So the team worked on the operational logistics of that,” said Vic Isely, president and CEO of the Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, which manages the county’s occupancy tax on behalf of the BCTDA. “This is our first meeting working in-person and virtual, so we’ll test the waters through this session and make adjustments accordingly.” 

Members of the public wishing to call in their comments must sign up to speak no later than noon the day before the scheduled board meetings, which typically fall on the last Wednesday of each month, by emailing LiveComment@ExploreAsheville.com. Commenters can also speak in person if they sign up at the beginning of the meeting.

No members of the public signed up for either in-person or remote public comment during the July 28 meeting. 

Board member switch-ups 

Himanshu Karvir, the CEO of Virtelle Hospitality, is leaving the BCTDA board after six years of service, including the past year as board chair. John Luckett, chief operating officer of the Grand Bohemian Hotel, will also leave the board at the end of August. Board member James Poole, who had represented the Foundry Hotel Asheville, resigned from his seat earlier this month after changing his role at the hotel. 

All three of those seats are appointed by Asheville City Council, which plans to keep applications for new board members open until Monday, Aug. 9. Council will conduct interviews with potential candidates and select new members on Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Terms are also set to expire Tuesday, Aug. 31, for board members Gary Froeba, executive director at the Omni Grove Park Inn, and John McKibbon of McKibbon Hospitality. Both positions are appointed by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Applications for those seats are closed, and commissioners are expected to consider applicants and make appointments in a meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

Kathleen Mosher, who works as the vice president of communications for The Biltmore Co., began her tenure as chair of the BCTDA board July 1. Brenda Durden, chief operating officer for the Asheville Hotel Group, took Froeba’s place as vice chair.


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3 thoughts on “BCTDA to allow remote public comment, prepares for board changes

  1. luther blissett

    As ever, the financial statements are where the action is.


    The TDA spent $5.6 million on marketing in June. (To be precise, $5,569,378.) With all respect to Brooke, that’s the story here.

    The combined budgets of APD and AFD for 2020-2021 were $56 million. Divide that by 12 and you get $4.67 million per month. So it’s reasonable to say that the TDA spent more on marketing in June than APD and AFD spent on everything. Chief Zack ought to have something to say about that.

    The TDA spent considerably more in June than in the previous 11 months of the fiscal year combined. Visitor revenues for May were the third highest for any month since 2017. The highest on record was October 2020. Both of these where the financial statements show no real spending on marketing, and we already know from past reporting that there were no significant ad campaigns during those months.

    The TDA’s explanation is that it always spends more money at the very end of the fiscal year, which is somewhat true, but also feels like a way to justify what was budgeted the year before. (It typically ends up at about 80% of what was budgeted. Also, pay your invoices on time.) But where was that money spent if there was no paid media? That’s none of our business.

    So, once again: visitor revenues have been significantly higher since the start of 2021 — especially from vacation rentals — with basically zero paid media. The takeaway from this is to spend $5.6 million on marketing in one month, and we have no idea where or how or why that money was spent because the TDA is accountable only to itself. They could have spent in on Bitcoin for all we know.

    The TDA is a cancer on Buncombe County. Audit the TDA, defund the TDA, abolish the TDA.

    • NFB

      It’s become increasingly obvious that Buncombe County Commission is going to do nothing but look the other way at whatever the TDA wants to do. I’m not sure how the TDA can be held accountable but something has got to give at some point.

  2. Taxpayer

    Abolish the TDA by decreasing the occupancy tax to 0. Can’t be done right away, but it can be done. Buncombe County commissioners need to stop pandering and start looking after the area they were elected to represent.

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