Park & Hospitality Groups Defeat Tax Measure
The Middlesex County, Va., Board of Supervisors unanimously defeated a proposal to implement a 2% transient occupancy tax on visitors to the county.
Located along the Chesapeake Bay, the rural county has approximately 50 hotel rooms, several bed and breakfasts and more than 1,000 campsites located in two RV and camping resorts, according to a news release. The proposed tax revenue was to go into the county's general fund.
A committee of the board of supervisors was formed to explore how the county could raise additional revenue through new taxes. This effort followed a recent property tax increase that many felt could be avoided or rescinded if other revenue measures were implemented. The committee recommended the transient occupany tax and a meals tax as potential revenue sources. The occupancy tax could be implemented by the Board of Supervisors but imposition of the meal tax will require a referendum that is on the ballot for November. The meal tax referendum has been defeated twice before by voters.
The effort to defeat the occupancy tax was spearheaded and coordinated by Walt Hurley, the owner of Bethpage Camp Resort and Grey's Point Camp, both located in Middlesex County. Hurley was concerned that in the current economy RVers and campers are very price-sensitive and have many options on where to camp along the Middle Atlantic coast including Virginia Beach, the outer banks of North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware beach areas and all along the North Carolina coast to Myrtle Beach.
Hurley coordinated opposition to the tax among business owners throughout the county who were concerned that the tax could hinder growth of the area's tourism business — the No. 1 industry in Middlesex County. Hurley, a long-time member of the Virginia Campground Association (VCA) and the and the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC), brought those organizations into the effort together with the Bed & Breakfast Association and the Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association (VHTA).
He also brought in attorney Greg Davis of Kaufman & Canoles PC, in Williamsburg, Va. Davis represented a number of business and land owners in the county. Working together, Hurely, the associations and Davis provided the county supervisors with economic data on tourism impacts on business and taxes in the county and pursuaded the Supervisors that implementing a tax might have a negative impact and put the economic activity of the county at risk. In addition, Davis pointed out that taxes are levied on a broad base of citizens and businesses but this tax would especially penalize Hurley's campgrounds that are by far the largest contributors to the county's tax and economic base.
At the Public Hearing held on Tuesday (Aug. 17) before the board of supervisors, Attorney Davis, VCA Executive Director David Gorin and Katie Hallebush, director of government affairs for the VHTA, all presented strong opposition to the tax. The hearing room broke into applause when the Supervisors voted against imposing the tax.
"This is a very good example of how the system works best," said Gorin. "Walt Hurley took on the fight, organized the local and industrywide opposition to the tax, coordinated a letter-writing campaign and visited face to face with the supervisors. A combination of local activists, industry representatives and strong supporting documentation to oppose the tax all contributed to the success of the effort," Gorin said. "Walt and his father before him, has been a backbone of the business community in the county for a long time. He's active in civic affairs and his involvement over the years on many issues of importance to a variety of interests in the county, made him a voice to be listened to on this issue," Gorin concluded.