As a member of the Tourism Council, I’d like to give my perspective on the proposed Visitor Center and respond to some of the inaccuracies and misrepresentations that have been made in opposition to that purchase.
I have been privileged to serve on the council for the past five years with lodging and business owners to recommend how best we can use the Tourism Occupancy Tax (TOT) to promote tourism in Greene County. State law mandates that 3% of those 5% TOT revenues must be used solely for tourism and marketing efforts, or for initiatives, as determined by the Tourism Council, that generate tourism revenues.
To that end, our annual budget provides thousands of dollars for marketing efforts: advertisements in regional publications; maintenance of a first-rate website; sponsorship of events like the 4th of July celebration, the Greene Commons farmers market and the Virginia Clay Festival; developing tourism initiatives, like highlighting Ruckersville businesses, the “Eat in Greene” promotion, the Scenic Byways designation; and partnering with Orange and Madison counties on joint tourism promotion efforts.
When Burger King’s contract to purchase the Taylor House property on Route 29 fell through, discussion began on the option of purchasing that property for a Visitor Center.
John Silke, a member of the Tourism Council and owner of that property, recused himself from the council’s discussions and votes on that question. Indeed, he offered to resign. He was present onsite only to answer questions when the Taylor House was visited by members of the Economic Development Authority and the Tourism Council.
In discussing the pros and cons of purchasing that property for a new Visitor Center, the council was guided by the overarching question: What can we do that best promotes tourism in Greene County? In considering the opportunities that the Taylor House presented for a Visitor Center, the answer was clear.
The Taylor House can become an iconic Visitor Center for Greene County. People will stop for picnics, the restrooms and information about attractions. It will attract tourists off Route 29 and into the interior of Greene. Rooms in the house can be used for rotating exhibits provided by the Art Guild, Historical Society, Blue Ridge Heritage Project, Chamber of Commerce, Ruckersville Antiques Gallery, Town of Stanardsville and others to showcase what we have to offer. It presents many other advantages and opportunities too numerous to mention here.
In short, the Taylor House will promote tourism and is a smart investment of tourism dollars. Owning is always better than renting.
Executive Director, *STAR*