City Council approves Chamber funding request for one year

by Richard Uhlhorn

Most everyone knows the initial outcome of Councilman John Olson’s request that the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce forgo $400,000 of their requested $700,000 marketing budget which would be applied to Toursim infrastructure issues.

John Olson opened a hornets nest asking the Chamber to give up some funding for infrastructure issues.

The Chamber won a 6-1 council vote to extend their current contract for one more year instead of the new five year contract they requested at the City’s Workshop on December 6.

Council chambers were full of tourism advocates at the workshop.

The Olson request certainly stirred up the issue of the Chambers marketing efforts which have increased tourism in the Lake Chelan Valley to a point where the City, and Valley for that matter, can’t absorb more tourists.

Councilman Tim Hollingsworth didn’t disagree with Olson, but said, “We need to develop a committee, goals and strategies of where tourism fits in our community. We’ve grown to a point that we need to look at adopting a lodging tax advisory committee.”

Tim Hollingsworth called for a Tourism Advisory Board to be established

“On one hand,” continued Hollingsworth, “I’m glad you brought this up.” He remarked that the tourism industry and sales and property taxes have huge impacts on the community. “We need to move forward next year and organize in a collaborative way.”

City Administrator Wade Ferris stated they would bring this forward next year regarding a Lodging Tax Advisory Committee. “I think the process would benefit us.”

Councilwoman Erin McCardle brought up the point that tourism brings both pros and cons to the community.

Erin McCardle outline her wished for moving forward with tourism issues.

On the one hand, the entire community benefits from the revenue generated by tourism dollars that supports the infrastructure and creates a robust business community.

On the other hand, she stated that the adverse effects are less severe when a community has revenue generated from outside sources.

“Change is hard,” remarked McCardle. “We have visitors who do not understand or respect our small-town culture.” She stated that tourism affects affordable housing and the rising costs of living in Chelan.

“What I would like to see is the City have a more collaborative discussion around visioning and planning to develop a healthy and robust Tourism economy,” she said. This would include:

 a. The value of tourism is understood and supported by the local community, while impacts are proactively planned for.

b. The local community quality of life is at the center of our decision making.

c. We have varied and high-quality experience for visitors.

d. Visitors understand and respect our local culture, way of life and our environment.

e. Our authentic rural and small-town heritage and character is an asset to be protected.

In order to achieve this, McCardle would like to see the City spend more time on economic development by bringing together residents, businessess, the public sector to craft a vision of the future.

The City’s Statement on the issue:

I BELIEVE WE NEED TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THE PROPOSED BUDGET FOR PROVIDING FUNDING TO THE LAKE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE IN 2023. ELIMINATING THIS FUNDING AT THIS TIME WOULD BE UNNECESSARILY DIVISIVE AND DISRUPTIVE TO A LONG-STANDING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE CITY AND ITS BUSINESS COMMUNITY AS REPRESENTED BY THE LAKE CHELAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. IT IS ALSO SIMPLY A POOR WAY TO DO BUSINESS. WITH SUBSTANTIAL BALANCES ALREADY IN THE STADIUM FUND, THERE ARE ADEQUATE RESOURCES TO ENTERTAIN FUNDING POTENTIAL PROJECTS TO BETTER ACCOMMODATE THE TOURIST INDUSTRY WITHIN THE RESTRICTIONS TO WHICH THOSE FUNDS ARE SUBJECT. THE PROJECTS WOULD LIKELY BENEFIT RESIDENTS AS WELL AS VISITORS. WE DO NEED TO INITIATE AN OPEN AND INCLUSIVE DIALOGUE ON THE PROPER ALLOCATION OF LODGING TAX REVENUE. I PROPOSE A COMMITTEE BE FORMED TO BEGIN THE PROCESS OF DEVELOPING A COMPREHENSIVE “TOURISM ASSESSMENT AND STRATEGIC PLAN” SUCH AS THE DOCUMENT FOR AIRWAY HEIGHTS LINKED IN THE MRSC LODGING TAX DISCUSSION. ULTIMATELY, I BELIEVE THE CITY SHOULD CREATE A “LODGING TAX ADVISORY COMMITTEE TO PROVIDE A STUDIED AND CONSISTENT VENUE FOR EXPENDING LODGING TAX FUNDING. DEVELOPMENT OF A STRATEGIC PLAN IS A CRITICAL FIRST STEP TO ENSURE THAT SUCH A LTAC WILL HAVE CLEAR GOALS AND GUIDELINES THAT REFLECT COMMUNITY VALUES.

The City Council will move forward on Tuesday evening, December 13 to approve a one year extension of the Chamber’s contract and ratify its 2023 budget as presented.

Author: allthingslakechelan

I have been a journalist, photojournalist and reporter in the Lake Chelan Valley since 1988; first with the Wenatchee World, then 15 years at the Lake Chelan Mirror and another 12 years at GoLakeChelan. Currently, I am semi-retired but can't give up the media gig which is why I started All Things Lake Chelan blog. I also have two social media platforms; allthingslakechelan/facebook and lakechelansportsandrecration/facebook. I am also a professional photographer with many credits with major outlets around the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: