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Kalahari tax plan urged
Mayor: Tax tourists to recoup Kalahari rebate

 The wave pool at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. Kalahari Resorts wants to build a similar water park in the Celebrate Virginia area of Fredericksburg.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 3/8/2008

BY EMILY BATTLE

Fredericksburg should recoup the money it is proposing to give Kalahari Resorts in tax rebates by imposing a new tax on visitors to the water-park hotel planned for Celebrate Virginia.

That's what Mayor Tom Tomzak proposed in a press release that came out of City Hall yesterday afternoon.

He said the city should ask the General Assembly for permission to impose an additional tax on room rates at Kalahari's proposed 700-room facility.

This, he said, would be a "user tax" that would replace the money the city has proposed to give Kalahari as incentives to get it to locate here--a 47.5 percent rebate on its local taxes, or about $2.8 million a year--without burdening city residents.

The release came in a week when campaign signs began to pop up around town for both Tomzak and his opponent in the May 6 mayoral election--Councilwoman Debby Girvan.

"I'm glad to see that the mayor is acknowledging my position that the citizens of Fredericksburg can't afford this $61 million incentive package," Girvan said. "This proposal still doesn't hold Kalahari accountable for economic performance or water conservation."

Tomzak said the new tax would be collected only from guests to Kalahari, and would not be subject to the 47.5 percent rebate for the resort's incentives.

He said he got the idea when someone told him Williamsburg has a similar tax.

Williamsburg, along with York and James City counties, received permission from the General Assembly to charge a "transient occupancy tax," which is a $2 fee per room per night on top of the local lodging taxes.

By law, that money must pay for tourism marketing for those localities.

Similarly, Hanover, Chesterfield and Henrico counties have legislative authority to charge three different occupancy taxes, which are to benefit the Greater Richmond Convention Center, the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation and tourism marketing in the Richmond area.

Tomzak is proposing that Fredericksburg get the state's permission to impose a tax large enough to replace the tax money Fredericksburg is proposing to give back to Kalahari in incentives.


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