New Program to Support Local Businesses is Timely
With many local businesses having closed their doors, reduced staff or even completely altered their business models in response to COVID-19, we are excited to see the county moving forward with a new program to support local businesses.
Approval of the Shenandoah County Tourism Zone ordinance would establish a new tourism zone within non-residential areas of the county and allow the county to offer eligible businesses a special set of tax and deduction incentives. Originally raised by the county’s Tourism Council more than two years ago, creating a tourism designation zone was also recommended in the Strategic Economic Development Plan completed in November 2019. Allowed by the Code of Virginia in 2006, there are approximately 75 tourism zones, statewide, across Virginia in 47 different localities.
The goal of the county’s tourism designation is to stimulate business growth and new employment opportunities within the defined areas of the county and grow the county’s revenue stream.
Businesses eligible for the incentives must cater to attracting outside visitors. The list of purposed eligible business types include: lodging, outdoor recreation, dining, retail museum, theatre, art gallery, brewery, winery, farmers market, and agri-tourism. Business must also meet a set of additional criteria including a minimum capital investment of $15,000 over a three-year period and being current on all taxes and fees.
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Similarly, in May, the Woodstock Town Council approved an ordinance to establish a tourism zone encompassing 0.3 square miles around the northern end of Woodstock. Incentives could include reduced cost for new water/sewer connections, waiving site plan or zoning permit fees, or a grant of up to 50% of the design costs (up to a maximum of $1,000) to assist the new or existing business with design requirements necessary to secure building code approval with the county. The town council hopes the incentives, aimed at offsetting the additional challenges of operating within a historic district, will keep existing locations open and bring new opportunities into the existing business community.