An Update on NC House Bill 508

In the last several months, representatives from Visit Lake Norman and the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce campaigned in Raleigh to have a mandated law that would dictate how much money from the hotel/motel/prepared food taxes would have to be given to Visit Lake Norman from the towns of Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville. Representative Beverly Earle, with the approval of House Speaker Thom Tillis, formulated House Bill 508 as a result.

The leaders of the three towns asked the state leadership for the opportunity to work in good faith with Visit Lake Norman in creating an interlocal agreement that would grant the funding for a particular time frame and encourage accountability standards. As recently as three weeks ago, all parties were at the table, negotiating and agreeing upon those terms.

But then, the communication from Visit Lake Norman stopped, despite the tireless efforts of a Cornelius commissioner to bring everyone to a consensus.  And yesterday, your town officials learned why:  Visit Lake Norman representatives, along with the Lake Norman Chamber president, bypassed the local discussions and unbeknownst to your town leaders, requested the State codify a greater percentage from the towns.

What was once a cordial relationship is now strained. Even more concerning, however, is the financial hardship that will be placed upon the three towns, who have recently approved their 2012 budgets. A Huntersville commissioner yesterday informed several of our local non-profit entities and destinations (the very ones Visit Lake Norman is supposed to be assisting) that Huntersville may have to now cut their recently-granted funding. My previous blog post mentioned Latta Plantation’s budget being $20,000 less than last year. That deficit may now be increased.

Huntersville’s commitment to travel and tourism simply cannot be questioned.  Nearly 90% of the athletic tournaments scheduled in our parks last year were solicited by our Parks and Rec department. The construction and support of Discovery Place Kids in the downtown area — NEVER advocated by Visit Lake Norman or the Lake Norman Chamber — has brought in over 100,000 visitors from 15 states in the first five months of operation.  That’s a bigger trend than the Charlotte NASCAR Hall of Fame. And for the past three years, this mayor has been the initiator of Destination Huntersville and now Huntersville Connection — working to enhance the opportunities for destinations and businesses alike.  Our towns offer their parks, their gyms and other facilities to Visit Lake Norman to bring in outside events.

The House passed their version of House Bill 508 last night. The bill is now headed to the Senate for final approval. Yesterday, the Huntersville Town Board unanimously emailed the entire state legislature the following statement:

To the North Carolina Legislative Body:Today we found out that HB 508 is on the fast track toward approval, despite no opportunity for the towns of north Mecklenburg to weigh in.  And, although good faith negotiations with Visit Lake Norman have in fact taken place weeks prior to today, we found out through third party sources that HB 508 has changed the percentages of mandated monies significantly in the past day.  For Huntersville, quick calculations indicate that this will affect nearly $250,000 of our recently passed 2012 budget, a direct hit to our taxpayers.

While the Huntersville Town Board cannot officially take a position on this legislation without a vote, please note that the Huntersville Town Board has called an emergency meeting for Monday June 13th to pass a resolution opposing the passage of HB 508.  In an effort to expedite our concerns and frustrations with the passage of this legislation, the majority of the Huntersville Town Board has approved this letter to illustrate their desire to see this legislation fail and their intent to pass the resolution opposing it. 

We do not support House Bill 508.

While our towns have supported Visit Lake Norman in the past, we are concerned about the precedent the State is setting by dictating how local municipalities conduct their business.  And we are even more concerned that an entity we would be forced to give money to, is now unaccountable and uncommunicative.  This is certainly not in the spirit of what has become Huntersville Connection.
Please, weigh in.
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Author: jillswain

Former Mayor Chamber of Commerce Exec. Director Advertising consultant Mom and spouse (30 years and counting!) Rec league girls' volleyball coach Champion of all things Huntersville, North Carolina

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