Cherokee Village City Hall was the site of the Advertising and Promotions (A & P) venture meeting Oct. 29. The gathering was designated as a time for members of the public and owners of Cherokee Village businesses to gather and discuss the possibility of the city council approving the implementation of a 2 percent A & P tax on food establishments and rentals of less than 30 days within the city limits.
Business owners were invited to come to the open forum and share their opinions following the informational presentation. Lynn Maxedon, a member of the A Better Cherokee Village committee (ABCV) and city council member presented the Power Point presentation to the audience on behalf of the city of Cherokee Village to address concerns and answer questions from attendees.
The topics discussed included ways to improve the image of the city, avenues to increase tourism to the area, promote the city as a location for visitors to return and growth and improval of facilities within the city of Cherokee Village. The proposed 2 percent tax would be used to assist in this endeavor. The city currently has no city tax, unlike all of the sister cities of Hardy, Ash Flat and Highland. The presentation outlined how the tax could potentially increase home sales by attracting tourists to the area who might, in turn, relocate to Cherokee Village, stimulating the economy and creating new jobs and businesses for the area.
If implemented, the city council can vote the A & P tax in and implement it following the approval and reading of the ordinance three different times at council meetings, according to city attorney Jon Abel.
Numerous representatives of both Cherokee Village businesses and the general population were present as well as members of radio, magazine and newspaper mediums to voice their opinions on the proposal.
Many of the concerns were the same. Patrick Steen manager of Carol's Lakeview Dinette was adamantly opposed to the tax, saying he had spoke with his customers, many who are on fixed incomes and come to the local establishment for their meals. Steen said, "They don't want extra taxes, they will see no benefits for them." He said even the area residents who do choose to stay in the timeshares in the city will visit Hardy and surrounding areas; there is just not enough businesses in Cherokee Village to utilize tourism. He credited the locals as being the ones who keep the restaurant's businesss alive during the winter months.
DeeAnn Draper, owner of the McCabe House, also spoke to the audience with her concerns regarding her opposition to the proposed A & P tax. Draper said she felt the businesses would have no say in the spending of the tax profits if the tax were imposed or when and if the city wanted to cease the tax. She said she believed the city should consider an alternate plan to promote the city, with the brunt of the responsibility being placed on those who would benefit the most, the real estate companies. Draper said that by creating a great Web site, perhaps the city could best be promoted rather than by a tax on those who live on a fixed income.
Beth McEntire-Bess with Hometown Radio also addressed the audience about the importance of advertising, telling the audience, that the old adage, "If you build it they will come," is completely a false assumption and told those present advertising doesn't cost, it pays, and promotions through various media outlets are a very cost effective way to promote businesses in the area.
Other concerns included those of Tom Mangranarel, who said he had mixed emotions about the proposed A & P tax. He said, "In a bad economy, you don't raise taxes, you lower them." Following the presentation, Tom said he had more questions than comments. He was unclear on what the city was attempting to promote besides the lakes and golf courses which are already heavily promoted through the real estate advertising. He said he felt businesses needed an incentive to move to the area and also, like many others brought up, the fact that there is no hospital in the area. Tom said, "If we are going to have a $9 million gym, then let's have a $6 million hospital."
A realtor with Southern Pines also addressed the audience regarding the hospital issue saying a hospital is crucial to growth in the area. She said people are moving out every day due to health issues to be closer to a hospital. Still another audience member said that nearly one in five homes in Cherokee Village are vacant and property values continue to go down due to the lack of a health care facility in the area. Most audience members agreed the logical order is to first get a hospital before an A & P. Others felt the A & P tax would generate the growth needed to sustain a hospital in the area and should be the first step, rather than the last.
Another issue that seemed to be of unanimous concern was the fact that many did not want the city to grow. Some audience members said the reason they moved to the area was for the quiet relaxed atmosatmosphere and many had no desire to see their hometown grow.
Others speaking in favor of the A & P were Oral Henderson, who was the prior Cherokee Village Property Owners (POA) president, an organization that was disbanded in 1998 when the city was incorporated. Henderson said this is something that, "Has been needed for a long time." Another proponent of the proposal was Tom Hrezo with Cherokee Village Planning and Zoning. Hrezo said the area needs to be advertised to bring people to the area and make them want to stay.
Finally, Charles Deloach, Cherokee Village Planning and Zoning, posed questions to the audience about where their tax dollars go. He asked where attendees purchased such things as groceries, gas and clothing, none of which was in Cherokee Village. This money is all tax money that could be coming into the Village. He also demonstrated that the small 2 percent tax would not be that significant, with tourists bearing most of the cost because the tax would be a discretionary tax, not one on necessities.
Finally, all comments and concerns were addressed by Maxedon. He agreed a hospital was much needed in the area and said that growth in the city may help the problem and growth was possible through the A & P. Cherokee Village Mayor Llyod Hefley assured the audience the matter was being looked into, although could not confirm any progress. Maxedon told the audience that the businesses would have a say in the tax through the creation of the seven person A & P commission which would be comprised of four owners or managers from a tourist related business, two members from the Cherokee Village governing body and one member from the public. He also addressed the concern of the brunt of the tax being put on local residents during the months when tourism isn't prevalent in the city. He said 2 percent only amounted to 20 cents per $10 meal.
Based on estimates from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, the A & P tax could potentially generate $15,000 in much needed revenue for the city during its first year.
Cherokee Village City Council said they would take all the comments and concerns under advisement before making a decision on implementing the A & P tax. Those with concerns or questions were asked to speak with their council representatives.
The next regular meeting of Cherokee Village City Council will be Nov. 19 at 7 p.m