Tag Archives: tourism

Icarus, Municipal Hubris, and Tourism


By. Neil Williamson, President

When you are traveling outside of Central Virginia, where do you tell people you are from?

Do you say “Free Union”, “Albemarle County” or do you say, “Charlottesville”?

Seemingly an academic question but it is one that is at the heart of the current governmental coup of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau (CACVB).

According to an April 25th Daily Progress article by Chris Suarez:

In December, former Albemarle Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Diantha McKeel sent a formal notice to [Then CACVB Executive Director Kurt] Burkhart that said the county intends to terminate an existing organizational agreement on June 30.

The letter says the city and county’s elected officials had been discussing the CACVB’s “limited focus and reluctance” to promote locally owned wineries, breweries and distilleries, history and heritage tourism and ecotourism, as well as specific activities such as bicycling, hiking, canoeing and kayaking.

“We feel destination development is currently lacking,” the letter says. “Although the targets for hotel vacancy rates are important and currently successful, their vacancy rates and other directly related indicators should no longer be the primary driving metrics.”[Emphasis Added-NW]

The friction between CACVB Executive Director Burkhart and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors had been simmering for several years.  [Burkhart retired earlier this year]. While Burkhart touted hotel occupancy rate data; focusing on proving the return on investments in tourism using economic models showing $6 or $7 benefit for every dollar invested, supervisors questioned the methodology of these models and noted the large number of hotels in the City.

imageIn addition to Burkhart not filling funded positions quickly and maintaining a large fund balance, the root of much of the concern was focused on the belief that Albemarle was not being promoted enough in the marketing of the region.

This “Municipal Hubris” has been gong on for over a decade.   I recall when the latest logo redesign [left] was competed several years ago, it was a requirement that Albemarle be in the logo and then there was a concern regarding the different size font. Then there was a discussion, I am not making this up, that it was not alphabetical.

See the source imageAccording to www.Merriam-Webster.com

To the [Ancient] Greeks, hubris referred to extreme pride, especially pride and ambition so great that they offend the gods and lead to one’s downfall. Hubris was a character flaw often seen in the heroes of classical Greek tragedy, including Oedipus and Achilles. The familiar old saying “Pride goeth before a fall” is basically talking about hubris.

So what does Charlottesville City Council think about this internal branding conflict.  We believe the answer can be found between the lines of Councilor Kathy Galvin’s polite answer quoted in the Suarez article:

“What happens next (including whether or not a city/county CACVB committee persists and I remain the city’s liaison with the county) is a matter, in my view, to be decided by the City Council,” Galvin wrote. “I will be raising that question at a City Council meeting in May.”

At the end of the May 21st City Council meeting, they selected Councilors Galvin and Signer to represent Council in the CACVB reorganization work; but there was no further discussion beyond the appointment.

To review, the proposed CACVB Executive Committee would control all aspects of the organization and would consist of  one member from the City Council and the Board of Supervisors; the city manager (or a designee); the county executive (or a designee); a tourism or economic development official from the city and county; a University of Virginia representative; two industry representatives, one each appointed by the city and county.  All but three of these members sit on or answer to either the City Council or the Board of Supervisors.

Considering the many conflicts and concerns between the City and the County right now, I anticipate the jointly funded marketing of regional tourism objectives to be an area where the city (and county) end up walking away from the “new deal”.

The result will be duplicative efforts (though they will claim collaboration), inefficiency and a lack of accountability.  Tourism will become a division of each locality’s Economic Development departments and lack the import and independence it enjoys today.  In addition, we see further weakening of the required nexus between tourism and line item expenditures.  Transparency is lost.

Perhaps a brief review of Greek mythology [Daedalus and Icarus] could prove helpful prior to moving forward with the dissolution or dismemberment of the CACVB.

Respectfully Submitted,


Neil Williamson, President


Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credit www.frederickmordi.wordpress.com





Greene Planning Commission Considers Expanding Tourism

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Greene County’s Board of Supervisors asked the Planning Commission to look at including Tourist Lodging in the Residential (R-1) zoning district. Planner Stephanie Golon outlined the proposed revision to the zoning ordinance explaining that several citizens have requested this change to have Travel Lodging as a by right use.

Golon explained that Transit Occupational Tax (TOT)  has increased the past three years from $174,000 to last year hitting $226,000. Tourist Lodging is defined as having no more than 5 guest rooms in each structure and no more than 4 events can be held per year. Most of the R-1 areas are Ruckersville, Stanardsville, Dyke, Lydia and subdivisions such as Greene Mountain Lake.

Some negative aspects of this use is that it takes away from commercial lodging and the transient nature of the dwelling takes away from the nature of a residential neighborhood. Golon also clarified that a development’s HOA (homeowners association) may have more stringent rules than the county which might bar tourism lodging in their neighborhood.

Chairman Jay Willer clarified that most of the funds go to support tourism rather than come to the county as tax revenue. Ms. Golon added that the Commissioner of Revenue works with owners of the properties to collect the proper taxes. Also, each property must be in compliance and pay the proper taxes to have their property advertised by the EDA.

Willer’s main concern was the granting of four (4) events per year in a residential neighborhood and he would prefer that a Special Use Permit (SUP) be required in order to hold an event in R-1. Planning Director Bart Svoboda explained that there is a 100 foot set back requirement but Willer still had a concern that noise isn’t limited to 100 feet.

Willer agreed that some properties may be large enough to allow the event with minimal noise problems, but others in dense neighborhoods would have the noise carry to many properties. If the revision is allowed then there is no control while a SUP will provide flexibility in deciding to allow the event or not. After discussion with the Commission, Svoboda and Golon it was unanimously agreed to defer action until next month and the staff would add the SUP requirement for the R-1 zone.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at http://www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Greene Supervisors Briefed on Stanardsville Revitalization Grants

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

stanardsville sealCraig Wilson of the Community Planning Partners has been hired by Stanardsville and addressed the Greene County Board of Supervisors  at their first meeting of February to discuss the potential of additional grants to further enhance the Town of Stanardsville, the county seat of Greene.

Speaking prior to Wilson, Superintendent Jim Northup from the Shenandoah National Park, updated the Board and one of his key statistics was that last year there were 1.3 million tourists in the park in 2015. This was a perfect entry to Wilson asking for support of the Board to try to attract more of the tourists to downtown Stanardsville.  Wilson went on to explain there are $9 million available in state grants (Community Development Block Grants or CDBG) with probably 30 applicants trying to receive grants of up to $700,000.

The grant can be used for improving infrastructure in Stanardsville. Wilson showed a diagram of a performance pavilion for both inside and outside events as a result of the planning grant already received.

David Hill of Hill Studios along with Stanardsville Mayor Gary Lowe, Chairman Bill Martin, Country Administrator John Barkley, Economic Development Director Alan Yost and STAR President Don Pamenter, have been working with Mr. Wilson. He addressed the proposed location as the hillside behind the county administration building  which slopes down to a creek and then the other side goes up to the school parking lot. He further explained that the sloping hill would make the structure very economical to construct.  He did not address any stream buffers, stormwater impacts or other environmental mitigation that the site might require.

As currently conceived, the project would be done in phases with the octagonal pavilion being done first, with a wing added followed by additional phases. According to Wilson, Hill estimates the venue being able to seat nearly 2,000 people. Further, the structure could be used for a farmers market and suggested one or more pedestrian bridges to the school parking lot.

Whitmarsh 2

Andrea Witmarsh, Greene County Schools Superintendent

Wilson went on to explain that he has spoken with Greene County School Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh about how the school system could also use the facility.

The key issue of the presentation was explaining to the Board of Supervisors that the more support that the Board would give the project the more apt Greene County would be to get the grant. Wilson suggested at least a letter from the Board or, better yet, a resolution in support of the project. The grants are to be awarded on March 23rd by the Department of Housing Community Development.

Chairman Bill Martin asked what else the grant would be used for. Wilson said that improvement to facades of structures in Stanardsville and possibly demolishing blighted structures. There are also funds that can be used for marketing and signage. Wilson will also be meeting with Lowe and the town council to discuss the grant process.

Supervisor Jim Frydl asked if owners of the buildings need to give approval at this point. Wilson explained that at this point it is non-binding on the owners of the structures but the more owners of building in town would be looked upon favorably. Frydl asked when the Board needs to act and Wilson explained that he recommended not waiting until the day the grant applications are due (March 23, 2016) as there is a lot of detail and suggested submitting it one or two days in advance.

Vice Chairman Michelle Flynn asked how much the maintenance of the structure would cost. Wilson did not have that at this time but the operating plan will be developed and he will provide it to the Board.  Barkley then addressed the Board with his support of the project. It is an example of the private and public sectors partnering and hopes that the Board and Town Council will support the grant request.

Supervisor David Cox agreed that we need something positive in Stanardsville but had questions on ownership of the structure, who is liable for the structure and where do we park 2,000 cars?

Wilson assumed most of the events would take place on the weekend or during the summer when school parking would be available. He further explained that this would be a 2 year project and could it begin this fall.

Frydl expressed his support of a resolution. Wilson offered his help in drafting a resolution and presenting it back to the Board. It was agreed that having the resolution done by the first Board meeting in March (March 8, 2016) would be most helpful. Wilson said that he would provide a draft document to Barkley before the March 8th meeting.

Ironically, this project sounds similar to the amphitheater in the county park that Dave Matthews’ manager Coran Capshaw proposed to Greene County in 1998. This was to be fully funded by Capshaw along with up to $1 million to develop that park. The tradeoff was that Capshaw/Matthews wanted to have 2 or 3 dates per year to have new bands get exposure. This proposal was turned down by the Board of Supervisors at that time and led to the development of the amphitheater on the Charlottesville downtown mall. It will be interesting to see if now, 18 years later, this Board of Supervisors believes an amphitheater is now a “good idea” in Greene County.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Community Planning Partners, Greene County, Hill Studios 

Greene BOS Approves Cabins on Route 33

clip_image002Bruce Shifflett, owner of Lydia Mountain Resorts, appeared before the Greene County Board of Supervisors to request a Special Use Permit (SUP#15-003) for a general store and five (5) cabins on a parcel that partially fronts Route 33 west of Stanardsville (18-(A)-11B). Prior to the hearing, Supervisor Eddie Deane recused himself since his wife, Tina, works for the applicant.

Planning Administrator Bart Svoboda outlined the request for the nearly 4 acres that is zoned C-1 and partially fronts Route 33 at the entrance to Lydia Mountain Resorts. The Planning Commission on May 20th approved the SUP with a 5-0 vote with the only restriction that guests could stay no more than 30 days in a years time.

Shifflett addressed the Board and explained that the existing building on Route 33 was at one time a general store when he was growing up in Greene and he hopes to use it as a check in location for his guests. Currently the guests go directly to their cabin and there is no personal contact with the resort staff.

Next the session was open to the public where four speakers were evenly split on the permit. An adjacent landowner, Paul Vannoy, expressed concern about the density of having 6 buildings on less than 4 acres where property owners in C-1 can only build one home per 8 acres by right. He also lives downhill from the proposed dwellings and expressed concern about his ground water being contaminated.

Tina Deane, who is the manager of Lydia Mountain Resort, said that they are very sensitive to their neighbors and the units would be small one bedroom units approximately 400 square feet. She lives right beside the resort and it is quiet.

The hearing then shifted to a discussion of the Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District) said he had received several emails opposing the SUP but he felt that it was supported by the Comprehensive Plan to develop tourism in Greene County and he likes the idea of the store front on Route 33. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District) complimented Shifflett on his quality of his development but he expressed concern that the ground water may be contaminated.


Greene County BOS Chairman David Cox

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway District) said that Shifflett’s development has been good for Greene County and that his only concern was the density of the four acres with 5 units. He suggested to Shifflett that he reduce the request to fewer units. Chairman David Cox (Monroe District) expressed concern that for generations either 5 and then 8 acres have been required for one dwelling.

Shifflett offered to reduce the number of cabins from 5 down to 3 and explained that he isn’t sure if he would get 3 units and that it will depend if the lot would perk in proper locations to put in the units. At that point, a motion was made to approve the SUP with the general store and 3 cabins with the same 30 day restriction that the PC approved. The motion was passed 3-1 with Cox voting no.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Greene County

Greene Supervisors Approve B&B

By. Brent Wilson Field Officer

The Greene County Board of Supervisors gave approval for a Bed and Breakfast on Route 33 west of Stanardsville just below the Shenandoah National Park at their April 14th meeting. Rob and Carmen Lynch represented three principals requesting a Special Use Permit on the nearly 14 acres zoned C-1 – Conservation.

Bart Svoboda, Director/Zoning Administrator,  presented the Special Use Permit (SUP# 15-002)  to the Board and explained that up to 13 units can be permitted which this particular SUP requests only 5 cabins and a lodge. A SUP can place restrictions similar to those that the Planning Commission proposed on March 18th when they unanimously approved the Special Use Permit. Svoboda stated that the SUP fit the county’s Comprehensive Plan by encouraging tourism and encouraging frequenting businesses in Greene County and that even though it is located outside the growth area it is near the Shenandoah National Park which has many tourists traveling Route 33. Mr. Lynch agreed with Svoboda in that the B&B fits well in the area and hopes that it will encourage tourists to spend their tourism dollars in Greene.

Bill Martin Greene County Supervisor

Greene County Supervisor Bill Martin

The lack of public comment clearly came as an endorsement for the project. The discussion amongst the Board members also indicated support for the project. Supervisor Bill Martin, Stanardsville District,  asked Mr. Lynch did they plan on the maximum number of people of 100. Lynch indicated that the 100 was the maximum the Planning Commission allowed and he felt that would not be the normal activity but special events might raise the number.

Supervisor Eddie Deane, At Large, didn’t believe this project would compete directly with Lydia Mountain Cabins  and that this project would attract more tourists to Greene County. Supervisor Jim Frydl, Midway District, thinks the location near Route 33 and the Shenandoah National Park  is good for this type of venue and it is a good application.

Supervisor Frydl made a motion to place the same restrictions on the Special Use Permit as the Planning Commission passed:

1) 6 cabins and 1 lodge

2) any renter is limited to 30 of 365 days per year

3) limit to 100 guests between 7 am to midnight

4) site approvals required

5) must be developed in accordance with the map in Special Use Permit

With no further discussion, the motion passed unanimously 5-0.


Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Tourism Growth in Greene County

By. Brent Wilson, Field clip_image002Officer

The Greene County Planning Commission considered a request for a  special use permit (SUP) for a Bed & Breakfast with Cabins on Route 33 west of Stanardsville at Mutton Hollow Road.  The property (3526 Mutton Hollow Road, 18-(A)-29), is nearly 14 acres which is zoned C-1, Conservation.

Zoning Administrator, Bart Svoboda  addressed the Planning Commission stating that the request was to have six cabins and the existing residence on the property. Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  had no issues with the entrance to the property.

The property is identified as rural in Greene’s Comprehensive Plan which supports the project. The conditions proposed for the Special Use Permit (SUP#15-102) include the B&B would be limited to six cabins, no guests could stay more than 30 days in a row, there would be a maximum of 100 guests per event and the project must meet all applicable Health Department and VDOT regulations.

Rob Lynch, the applicant, then addressed the Planning Commission stating that he and his family have recently moved clip_image003into the home on the property.

He stated that the location is right off Route 33 west of Stanardsville and across from Lydia Mountain Cabins and near the Tea Room, the Blue Ridge Pottery and just east of the Shenandoah National Park  making it a natural addition to the entrance of Greene County to attract visitors to Greene County.

The 2010 Comprehensive Plan recognized the underutilized tourism opportunities in Greene County:

Greene County has several assets for a vital tourism industry. Proximity to Shenandoah National Park and many acres of scenic rural lands provide an ideal backdrop for visitors, and various amenities exist to serve those who do visit.

When compared to counties in similar situations, it is clear that Greene County has not completely tapped into its full potential as a tourism destination, as the table reveals.

In 2008, $15.17 million was spent in Greene County, generating approximately 210 jobs. This is lower than the amounts spent in any of the surrounding localities.

According to The VirginiVirginia is For Loversa Tourism Corporation (VTC) Greene County saw an increase of 1.3% in 2013 tourism expenditures.  Even with that increase the VTC Economic Impact Report showed that Greene continues to lag far behind neighboring localities in terms of tourism:

                                                            2013 Tourism
                                                            Expenditures (in Millions)
Albemarle                                           $315.46
Rockingham                                      $183.29
Louisa                                                  $ 67.59
Orange                                                 $ 43.66
Madison                                              $ 32.49
Greene                                                 $ 17.69

Commissioner Frank Morris asked Lynch if there were plans of hosting weddings on the property. Lynch stated that they did hope to hold small weddings on the property and the 100 person limit would be sufficient.

Commissioner John McCloskey asked about the septic and sewer capability of the project. Lynch stated that this issue would be addressed as the development grew. He hoped to have each cabin in a wooded setting depending on where the ground perked allowing the location. Morris asked why the 100 person limitation while also asking what the county could do to help the project be successful? Lynch stated that VDOT targeted the 100 person maximum and he felt that number of people would allow the project to be successful.

No one from the public had comments on the project. With no further discussion the Planning Commission recommended approval of the SUP 4-0 as Chairman Jay Willer was absent. The SUP will proceed to the Board of Supervisors for their review.


The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Greene PC Considers Pocosan Mountain Lodge and B&B

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the September 18th meeting of the Greene County Planning Commission Whitt Ledford, the former owner/operator of the Lafayette Inn located in Stanardsville, approached the Commission requesting a Special Use Permit for a Lodge and Bed & Breakfast on a 58 acre parcel he owns west of Stanardsville. Currently the Ledfords offer overnight lodging in a  Yurt  on the “Cair Paravel Farmstead” property. The property is zoned C-1 Conservation District and requires a Special Use Permit (SUP) for the use requested.

Bart Svoboda, Greene’s Zoning Administrator/Planning Director, presented the request stating that through a SUP conditions can be placed on a property that doesn’t carry those rights by zoning. The uses stay with the property regardless of the owner of the land. According to Svoboda’s analysis, Greene’s Comprehensive Plan supports this project in that it supports tourism in the county. The application indicates a maximum of 6 lodging houses would be developed on the property and staff supports this SUP.  Svoboda concluded that both the Health Dept. and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) had no concerns with the project.

With there being no public comments Vice Chairman Jay Willer, acting in place of the absent Chairman Anthony Herring, asked Commission member Norman Slezak to give a site report . Mr. Slezak reported that he and Mr. Svoboda visited the property which sits on a remote site in western Greene County off of Route 33. The site is heavily wooded, provides great views of Greene County and is well maintained.

Commissioner Frank Morris questioned whether the facility would host outdoor parties and was assured that would not occur. Commissioner Vic Schaff’s comment was that this seemed to be a good use of the property. Mr. Slezak added that he believed the facility would be a plus for Greene County and would support tourism for the county. It is a beautiful area and he supports the request for the SUP. Vice Chairman Willer asked for clarification about the use of the pool. Mr. Svoboda assured the commission that this is an accessory use, not a pool where memberships are sold. It is solely for the enjoyment of the renters of the lodge and therefore an accessory use. With no other questions, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the SUP and this will request will go to the Greene County Board of Supervisors for final action.


Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.

Greene BOS Supports Artisan Trail

By. Brent Wilson, Greene County Field Officer

Rarely are Board of Supervisors approached to help make something happen without providing funding. Sherrie Smith, Executive Director of the Artisan Center of Virginia, approached the Greene County Board of Supervisors (BOS) on October 9, 2012 asking only for their support, not their dollars. Funding from the local Tourism Board would be directed toward ACV to get Greene started. The first year would involve implementing links to ACV’s website and then future years would maintain the system. Of course Greene’s BOS agreed to provide a letter of support of Greene’s participation in ACV.

So what is the Artisan Center of Virginia and what is the Artisan Trail Network? In 1987, then Governor Gerald  Baliles directed state agencies to “enhance the craft industry.” Finally in 1997, ACV was incorporated and on June 11, 2000 it was designated as the “official state artisans center.” Its goal is to help crafts of all types get their message out to increase tourism, increase jobs and finally, increase revenue. ACV has developed a statewide Craft Registry that identifies who and where the artisans are.

There are specific “trails” that identify specific areas such as the Monticello Artisan Trail. Nelson and Albemarle County combined to form this trail and it includes vineyards, breweries, a distillery, restaurants and lodging. This can then be linked to other websites that potential visitors to the area can easily link to.

Supervisor Davis Lamb  noted that this website gets about 22,000 hits per month. Director of Economic Development Tony Williams  who introduced Smith to the BOS, assured Supervisor Jim Frydl that this would not add to his workload and believes that this agreement will allow Greene County to market their product better than they are currently doing. Representatives of the newly formed Art Guild also endorsed this arrangement.

Central Virginia attracts a great number of tourists with well known sites such at Monticello, the University of Virginia, Montpelier, etc. Greene County will receive much greater exposure working with ACV and being linked on the same website as these major destinations rather than trying to attract visitors with a stand alone tourism website. Logically visitors coming down US 29 to Charlottesville or over Route 33 from the Shenandoah Valley are more likely to stop in Greene if they are aware of artisans in the area that they saw from the link on the ACV website when they are planning their trip.


Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Artisan Trail Network, Greene County

Municipal Mugging – Local Government Raid on $750,000 Tourism Fund

By. Neil Williamson, President

First the good news, regional tourism is up and the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau (CACVB) is achieving these objectives while under spending its budget.

The Bad News – the two local local governments want the money.image

Please let me explain.

Where the money comes from: Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville jointly fund the CACVB with monies earned from the lodging tax (also known as the Transient Occupancy Tax).  Virginia State Code § 58.1-3819 – Transient occupancy tax specifically delineates what these funds may be used for

The revenues collected from that portion of the tax over two percent shall be designated and spent for promoting tourism, travel or business that generates tourism or travel in the locality.

The concept behind this tax is the better job the tourism board does its job, the more revenue it generates for the community as a whole and to support their promotional activities.

After many years of annual budget wrangling, the discussion of a dedicated income stream developed,  According to C-villepedia:

In 2004, a new operating agreement was approved by the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors. A regional tourism council was eliminated, and the funding formula was changed to reflect that the CACVB would be funded from 30% of Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s annual transient occupancy taxes.

Where the money is spent:

According to their website the mission of the CACVB is:

“to enhance the economic prosperity of City and County by promoting, selling and marketing the City of Charlottesville and County of Albemarle, as a destination, in pursuit of the meetings and tourism markets.”

The CACVB accomplishes this mission through advertising, promotion, attending trade shows, staffing welcome centers as well as funding special projects.  This work is overseen by a Board of Directors that includes representation from both Albemarle County and The City of Charlottesville, The Regional Chamber of Commerce and representatives from the tourism industry.

Earlier this month, the two members from local government communicated with their colleagues in the CACVB Board  explaining their action (not the Board action) to ask staff to create a plan to draw down the accumulated the CACVB savings by shifting it to them.  The letter said in part:

The County Executive and City Manager have directed staff to develop a method for drawing down the fund balance to a more appropriate level, with the funds to be distributed back to the County and City.

While there was a promise in the letter to use these restricted funds for “tourism related purposes”, the Free Enterprise Forum believes both local governments are raiding the tourism cookie jar and punishing the CACVB.

The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce has sent communication to the City and the County advising against this “take back” –

Such a measure is ill-advised and opposed by our Chamber of Commerce.

These accumulated funds have been generated by local lodging taxes and are dedicated for direct tourism promotion funding – as compared to local general fund revenues available for any appropriate local funding options.  As such these funds should and must be expended only for direct tourism promotion purposes.  Unlike general tax revenues, dedicated tourism promotion funding is not to be available for general fiscal relief to County of Albemarle and the City of Charlottesville.

Earlier today, Board of Directors of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau passed a resolution (with the City and County government representatives abstaining) that said in part:

dedicated local direct tourism promotion funding – as compared to local general tax revenues – should and must be expended only for direct tourism promotion and is not to be available for fiscal relief to County of Albemarle and the City of Charlottesville;

Further, the Free Enterprise Forum has taken issue with the methodology Albemarle County has used in the past using tourism dollars to help fund the Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) program for properties that have tangential relationship (in our opinion) to tourism promotion.  We have little faith that reprogramming these dollars will increase tourism support; in fact we believe it will be used to replace  the small amount of direct local government support for tourism.

The CACVB Board of Directors has now started to take ownership of the fund balance that currently exceeds three quarters of a million dollars ($767,272).  It is important to note that the funds were accumulated over years of reduced spending.

  • Has the current CACVB Board provided staff proper direction to spend the funds allocated?
  • If so, how did the the fund balance get so high?
  • How will local government respond now that the usually amenable CACVB Board of Directors has stood tall and challenged what we see as a municipal mugging?
  • Considering all of the above should the entire construct (and budget) of the CACVB be reconsidered?

Once again, the Free Enterprise Forum has more questions than answers.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Is Greene County’s Occupancy Tax Increasing Tourism?

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

In the slightly more than two years since Greene County’s Transit Occupancy Tax (TOT) went into effect, how has the tax and the increased spending on tourism impacted Greene? The Free Enterprise Forum spoke with Tony Williams, director of the Greene County Economic Development Authority (EDA), and local lodging owners to find out.

Tony Williams

Greene County EDA Director Tony Williams

“For the first time, in 2010 we had the money to effectively place ads in tourism-related publications and magazines,” Williams said, “and we’re now targeting the Northern Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. metro area.”

As of July 1, 2009, businesses that provide accommodations for overnight guests such as motels, hotels, B&Bs, boarding houses, and campgrounds, pay a 5 percent tax, of which the EDA receives 3 percent. In the first year, EDA received $72,856, and the Tourism Council, composed of a mix of local tourism-related businesses, including artisans, antique shops, and realtors, made recommendations to the EDA board on how to spend that money. Jillian Peatross, general manager of the Best Western in Ruckersville, is one of the Tourism Council members who helped make these recommendations.

Best Western Ruckersville“The county needs to have such funds available for marketing and bringing in tourists,” Peatross said. “The nice thing about having this tax is that 3 percent of the 5 percent collected has to be allocated to tourism, whereas before, the county could choose what it wanted to do with the 2 percent lodging tax. This enables us to do more things that benefit tourism.”

In addition to marketing, the TOT money has allowed the EDA to move its Visitors Center—previously located in a warehouse front office on Rte. 33 Business—to Rte. 29 South in a plaza with restaurants, shops, and businesses that generate traffic. “Most people didn’t even know where we were because we were located off the beaten path,” Williams said. Offering better visibility, the new site has been responsible for increasing the number of visitors to the cengreene County Visitors Centerter. In turn, this has allowed staff and volunteers to steer visitors to local establishments for dining and accommodations.

“Although we can’t track this, we have seen a lot more short-term business and more people walking in from Rte. 29, some of which are referrals from the Visitors Center,” Peatross said. “We have seen some level of increase in guests since the hotel opened in 2006, and a portion of that can be attributed to the work the Visitors Center and the county have done.”

The EDA has also been partnering with local tourism efforts such as the Discover Virginia Wine Festival and the Mid-Atlantic Power Fest to bring more people to the county, and this October, they will hold the first annual Discover Virginia Chili Cook Off. Combine the growing number of events and festivals with the addition of more attractive retail outlets such as the Super Wal-Mart, and the result has been an astronomical jump in the amount of sales tax the county collected—a 31-percent increase in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the first quarter of 2010, and a nearly 40-percent increase in the second quarter, according to the EDA.

TOT money has also enabled EDA to build a new, easy-to-use, more informative website and keep it up to date. Part of the money is used to send information packages to people interested in visiting or moving to the area.

“The whole movement with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) coming to this area gave us an opportunity to put together information packages on shopping and places to stay and eat,” Williams said. “Before DIA employees started relocating here, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District coordinated trips to the area, and we went up there and had contact with their HR person. We also coordinate with realtors to help people looking to buy houses.”

“The council has to be fair to everyone and be sure that the return on the money spent is to the county as a whole, rather than bring in revenue for only a few businesses,” Peatross explained. “Overall, I think tourism dollars are spent well. We’ve seen a steady increase in tourism in Greene, and we are hoping to continue to build on that.”

Chuck Swinney, owner of Chesley Creek Farm Cottages who also serves on the Tourism Council, agrees. “For me, it’s been a very busy cottages at Chesley Creekyear, one of my best, with a lot of tourism coming from the Best Western.”

Although it’s hard to track how guests are finding him, Swinney believes the EDA advertising on the state website and now getting into more print advertising can only help. “We’re trying to focus on getting people from within a 2- to 3-hour drive,” said Swinney, who has been in the lodging business for 16 years.

“It sounds good to have that amount of money coming in,” Swinney added. “It means people are doing business in the county. We have just about everything we need here in Greene County now.”


Pauline Hovey is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum.  To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits : Greene County, Best Western, Chesley Creek Farm