Thursday, July 28, 2011

GWHMA opposes beach tags idea

Less than a week after the City of Wildwood issued a press release in which Mayor Ernie Troiano, Jr. commented on the possibility of beach fees being enacted in the near future, the Greater Wildwoods Hotel Motel Association has fired back in opposition to the idea.

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The Greater Wildwoods Hotel Motel Association issued a statement that it “is very concerned with recent discussions about possible beach fees in the City of Wildwood.”

It continued, “The beach fee is a user fee, a tax by another name, which is regressive, inefficient and objectionable to many. It also conflicts with the law in several areas and this organization will oppose the fees on behalf of its members, visitors to the Wildwoods, and for the entire Wild-wood economy and tour-ism business.

“The Wildwoods have a unique selling point, the beaches are free and open for public use. This was actually mandated in many deeds issued in the early part of the 20th century when organizations, such as the Cape May Land Company, sold the beaches with the understanding that they would “remain always open and free to the public.”

“Beach fees are not conventional, which is the reason beach tags are not worn in the more progressive resorts to the South. Visitors to the Wildwoods do not want to wear a beach tag, they are demeaning and bothersome and people only put up with the requirement elsewhere because they have no option.

“The Wildwoods love its tourist families who return year after year, generation after generation. “They are too important to us and we don’t want to offend them with beach tags,” the release stated.

“First and foremost, the tax will hurt business in an already challenging economy and damage our tourism industry.

“Businesses pay much of the taxes in our community, if the tourism industry is damaged, businesses will close and taxes will increase for every resident.

“Almost every resort from Lewes, Del. to Key West, Fla. where there are no beach fees, has demonstrated there are better ways to fund beach maintenance.

“Look south, not north, for ways to fund beach maintenance and operations.

“It is also a fact that the Wildwoods already have a beach fee by another name. It is called a beach maintenance fee that guests pay in the form of a tourism tax when they check in at motels.

“This fee was implemented as part of the Tourism Improvement and Development Act as a more sophisticated means for funding beach cleaning and staffing. At this time, the Wildwoods are more progressive and efficient in the way they collect their funding for the beaches and we certainly don’t want to go back-wards and adopt the beach tag programs used by many other resorts on the Jersey shore.

“Other New Jersey resorts should be studying and adopting the program currently used by the Wildwoods. It is invisible to the tourist so it offends no one and collection is very efficient since the State of New Jersey collects the beach maintenance fee as part of the sales tax payments. The state deducts a mere 2 percent collection charge, and sends the money back to the Wildwoods.

“Residents and business owners in Wildwood should be made aware that the existing beach maintenance payment funded by the tourism tax (approximately $225,000 to $230,000) will be lost if a beach fee is imposed.

“The tourism legislation requires the Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, the implementing organization of this funding, to with-hold the beach maintenance fee collected at motels if a municipality adopts any other beach fee, beach tax, beach access charge or a beach fee by any other name.

“The beach fees are a very inefficient means for funding beach operations. The City of Wildwood would have to collect significantly more than the amount lost just to break even. The collection costs are very high. The cash return from sell-ing tags, collecting fees, and enforcing the law is relatively small after paying those costs.

“The commissioners of the City of Wildwood have an obligation to look at all sources of funds, but there are far superior means for raising money than beach fees.

“The Greater Wildwood Hotel and Motel Association will present some recommendations for expanding the current progressive and efficient beach maintenance fee program in a follow up release.”

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