The Legislature's Joint Committee on Finance traveled to Fayetteville Monday evening to hear from area residents about their concerns about the financial implications of a newly approved Constitutional Amendment.
The amendment, which was approved in November by West Virginia voters with 62 percent of the vote, will allow the Boy Scouts of America to lease their Summit Bechtel Reserve to private organizations while maintaining their property tax exemption.
The amendment, however, came with a requirement for lawmakers to write enabling legislation to include more specific cans and can nots for the Scouts. The forum was a chance for lawmakers to hear concerns directly from the public.
Some shared worries over the possible competition to the Scouts.
"I hope the committee will take into consideration to consult with local outfitters, restaurants, lodging properties that we don’t get ourselves in a situation where because of a tax exempt status we have an unequal playing field.”- Skip Peter, New River Adventure
“At Ace we are probably the most similar facility to what the Scouts have to offer. We have a lot of acreage, we do a lot of similar activities on the property and we would very much like to not see us in direct competition for those activities.”- Dave Bassid, Ace Adventure Resort
Others addressed complaints from area business owners who said they didn't see enough economic gain in the area during the 2013 Scout Jamboree on the reserve.
“The game changer is not the jamboree. The game changer is what they’re trying to do now is to open it up, let people come there and see what that does for your businesses. It can only do good.”- Elmer Coppoolse, Glade Springs Resort in Beckley
“The key I think is if the Summit constructs large scale lodging and restaurant facilities that allows these events to be contained on the property, the effect will be the same, but if they hold these events there but allow the crowds to spill over in the community then I think they’ll be a big benefit to the local area”- Bill Wells, rental property owner
The Joint Committee on Finance is accepting written public comment for the next 30 days on the enabling legislation that is being drafted. Those comments should be sent to:
Melissa Lilly, Counsel to the Joint Standing Committee on Finance
State Capitol Building 1 Room 465
Charleston, WV 25305