Tourists stroll down Canada St. in Lake George Village on a recent Fourth of July weekend. How to best promote tourism was discussed by the village board Jan. 13, after the downtown property owners defeated the proposed local Business Improvement District. Proposal opponent John Carr aired his concerns to the board about the allocation of county Occupancy Tax revenue and whether the Lake George Chamber of Commerce was adequately fulfilling its mission.
The proposal to establish a Business Improvement District in the village of Lake George was rejected last week by downtown commercial property owners, but community leaders say that merchants are undeterred in their commitment to boosting the village’s business climate.
John Carr of Adirondack Pub & Brewery, who successfully campaigned against the B.I.D. because of how it established a new layer of taxes, told village trustees Jan. 14 that both those for and against the B.I.D. formation supported the objective of business development and promotion — but he said existing entities in charge of tourism and marketing weren’t adequately fulfilling their missions.
“We were not opposed to the B.I.D. as a marketing vehicle, just the taxation involved,” Carr said, noting he was in favor of a continuing discussion between downtown business proprietors about how to boost business through shared marketing and promotion initiatives. Blais predicted that such communication in the business community would indeed go forward. He said he expected the B.I.D. steering committee — which had been meeting for many months and was developing potential business-boosting initiatives — would continue to meet.
Carr also denounced the way occupancy tax revenue was alllocated, and he questioned whether the Lake George Chamber of Commerce was as active as it should be in boosting the fortunes of commercial enterprises — and he criticized the group for not creating new local events.
“The Chamber is under-serving the tourism business community — and lack of membership among village businesses is evidence of this,” he said, suggesting that the Chamber re-define its role in the community and work more effectively in pursuing its objectives. “Most everyone I talk with is unhappy with the Chamber and the way Occupancy Tax is spent — changes need to be made.”
Lake George Chamber President Michael Consuelo countered Carr’s contentions. He said Chamber officials were indeed busy in boosting tourism.
“We’re not just selling the Chamber’s membership, we’re promoting Lake George, the brand, and the entire county,” he said, noting that the Chamber is busy year-round answering inquiries, as well as soliciting and arranging conventions, tours and conferences.
Consuelo added that his organization is bringing plenty of people to Lake George that otherwise might not visit.
“Lake George and Warren County is benefiting now from all the people we draw here,” he said, noting that the Chamber advises tourists at the Lake George Visitors Center, plus it entices potential tourists at the Northway Exit 18 rest stop information center and the Exit 21 outlet mall tourist center.
He said he would be meeting soon with Carr and other downtown merchants to hear their input and discuss potential initiatives.
Carr also said Jan. 13 that sales tax revenue should not be allocated in Warren County by property valuation, but it should be distributed back to municipalities in proportion to where it is generated.
He noted that while the town of Bolton hosts relatively few businesses, it receives about $3.6 million annually in sales tax revenue, while Lake George Village — with its hundreds of businesses and hundreds of thousands of visitors annually — only receives about $600,000 in sales tax revenue.
“We are not getting our fair shake, and this discrepancy is bound to get worse with rising property values,” he said.
On the subject of county Occupancy Tax revenue distribution, Carr said that much of the money was spent by the county for purposes not directly related to business promotion as was originally intended. He also suggested that business proprietors be represented on the county committee that allocates the revenue to various events and enterprises.
Blais said he was aware of such concerns aired by Carr and other business owners.
“There are things now in the works to keep these issues on the table and work things out,” he said, adding that he was now developing a proposal for new guidelines for occupancy tax allocation, and he would soon be sharing them with the county Board of Supervisors.
Blais said he also supported representation on the occupancy tax committee by business owners, and he was concerned how some event promoters were “double dipping.” He was also concerned that the county and its municipalities had different criteria for allocating the revenue to enterprises, and some event promoters had to make up to four separate applications for funding.
He also said adding decision makers to the panel of selected county supervisors would enhance the allocation process by adding people who had first-hand knowledge of the value of particular events to local communities’ economies.