From occupancy tax allocations and hemp production to private bar membership, state legislators voted on several measures that are consequential to WNC in their recently concluded short session.
Mobile-home owners can now receive the grants, while those who own multiple dwellings or receive other tax reductions will no longer be eligible. Those with “liquid resources” (cash or financial assets that could be converted to cash within a week) of more than $60,000 will also be disqualified, a change from the terms recommended by county staff.
“Having sidewalks, road improvements and replacement of inadequate sewer pipes will benefit both tourists and residents.”
“I think it would be a ridiculous waste of revenue to stop collecting a tax that visitors are used to paying. But it certainly should be used to benefit the community and keep it the strong, wonderful place that people would like to visit.”
“I support Commissioners Brownie Newman and Jasmine Beach-Ferrara’s calls for the occupancy tax to be used for community needs vs. more tourism marketing.”
At the recommendation of the county board’s Environment & Energy Stewardship Subcommittee, which includes board Chair Brownie Newman along with Commissioners Parker Sloan and Terri Wells, members will vote on whether to commit to conserving 20% of Buncombe’s total acreage by 2030.
The three applications were the first to be funded out of 105 projects that had been submitted in response to Buncombe County’s latest request for proposals for American Rescue Plan Act support, which closed April 12.
One referendum would authorize $30 million in borrowing for conservation projects while a second referendum would authorize $40 million in bonds for affordable housing efforts.
Negative sentiments regarding Asheville-area tourism appear to have ebbed since 2019, according to according to a new survey presented at the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s annual planning session March 25. While 65% of residents in 2019 believed that they couldn’t enjoy the city and its amenities because of visitors, only 45% said that they agreed with that viewpoint in 2022
With growth comes worsening traffic, rising housing costs and long lines of tourists waiting at locally beloved bars and restaurants. But it’s not all bad, as 2021’s Year In Review participants note in their reflections on Asheville’s development and tourism sector. These residents and local leaders shared their growth gripes and hopes as they look forward to the coming year.
Currently, Buncombe recommends indoor masking as a response to COVID-19 but has instituted no legal mandate. The city of Asheville also plans to reinstate a similar requirement, while rules in other county municipalities would be left to their governing bodies.
“Tourism dollars should be helping with the infrastructure of the city. To continue to put the burden on taxpayers living here is unfair and unsustainable.”
“The tourism fund could be used to provide paying jobs for locals to be out in the parks and forests making sure visitors practice “leave no trace”; park only where they are supposed to; do trail work; and prevent mapless tourists from getting lost in the woods.”
“The state law requiring 75% of the tax to be used for advertising is absurd.”
“I think and truly believe it is a travesty that so much of the funds from the occupancy tax are rerouted to advertising for more tourism!”
Nearly all of the members of the public who commented on the issue expressed concern over the amount of money being spent to draw more tourists to the area and asked that the funds allocated for advertising instead be spent on city infrastructure, schools and reparations for Asheville’s Black residents.
“The secret was out long ago. So, just how many millions do we need to promote, to advertise this town?”
If the vote takes place as planned, it would mark the second consecutive year in which the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved the budget immediately after the public hearing. Last year, Chair Brownie Newman noted that the board has historically allowed some time between the hearing and the vote to consider resident input.
Buncombe County logged $53 million in room sales for October, the latest month for which data is available. The figure represents a 6% increase over the $50 million in sales for the same month in 2019 — and an all-time monthly record.
According to a presentation available before Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday, Nov. 5, 67 lodging businesses have been delinquent in reporting or remitting occupancy taxes due March through September, with an additional 29 establishments yet to report at least one month of taxes during that period.
“If these larger establishments are bemoaning their loss of income, maybe they should consider adding an alternative arrangement, like a hostel in their basement.”