373Out of fear that it may not pass as written, a large group of Lee County’s elected and appointed political and business leaders have signed a letter to Sen. Ron Rabin (R-Harnett, Lee) asking that he amend language in a bill he filed in the state Senate which would allow the city of Sanford to levy an occupancy tax on hotel rooms in order to fund a Tourism Development Authority.

The letter, which was signed by the leadership of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, Lee County Commissioners Chair Amy Dalrymple, Sanford Mayor Chet Mann, Broadway Mayor Donald Andrews, Central Carolina Community College Trustees Chairman Julian Philpott, among others, was hand delivered to the senator from Anderson Creek on Wednesday.

“With success in sight, we are very concerned about anything that might cause (the occupancy tax) to be delayed any further or rejected,” the letter reads. “It is our clear understanding that Rep. Ted Davis, who chairs the House Local Government Committee, has stated that SB 874, as currently drafted, will not pass the House.”

Local leaders for years have sought to implement a 3 percent tax on hotel room nights in order to fund a Tourism Development Authority which would market Sanford and Lee County to visitors. Rabin’s bill would allow the city of Sanford to do so, but concerns have arisen that the bill may die in the legislature because it doesn’t conform to standard guidelines for occupancy taxes laid out by the North Carolina Travel and Tourism Coalition and by state law – namely, the bill calls for a portion of the funds the city tax would generate to pay for upkeep and maintenance at Central Carolina Community College’s Dennis Wicker Civic Center.

A separate 3 percent occupancy tax on hotel rooms, levied by the county, already funds upkeep and maintenance at that facility.

The letter explains that all stakeholders in the local hospitality industry support using new funds generated by the occupancy tax “to promote the Civic Center as the chief generator of local hotel room nights.”

“We are committed to using a portion of these new dollars to benefit that major, soon to be modernized and expanded, asset,” the letter reads. “Our plan will be to develop an Interlocal Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding to formalize that funding allocation once the TDA bill passes and is established. The Civic Center is the anchor to most of the Visitor Center Activity and marketing that we anticipate.”

Last year, Reps. Robert Reives (D-Lee, Chatham) and Brad Salmon (D-Lee, Harnett) introduced a version of the bill to the state House. While that bill was sent to a committee, sources tell the Rant that the measure now has bipartisan support in the House.

Read the entire letter here.