Church seeks tax exemption for campsite

WOODSTOCK – A Shenandoah County nonprofit wants its campground exempt from local real estate taxes.

Shenandoah Meadows Inc. requested in November that the Board of Supervisors grant its request for tax-exempt status. The nonprofit organization operates a camp for the Brethren Church at 443 Meadow View Lane, Fort Valley. Representatives state in a letter to the board that a tax exemption would help the nonprofit “finance the camp and work toward our vision of providing a growing and vibrant space for people to enjoy God’s creation.”

The board discussed the request at its work session Thursday. Supervisors must hold a public hearing on the request. The board could hold the hearing March 22 and take action on the request April 12. The organization is not seeking a tax exemption from personal property tax.

Virginia law allows the board to classify such property as tax-exempt by adopting an ordinance based on questions in the state code section.

“We believe that Shenandoah Meadows provides a beneficial service to Shenandoah County. We provide a place for county residents to enjoy their natural surroundings as well as an opportunity for others to experience the beauty of our area,” the camp representatives state in the application for the exemption.

Net earnings do not benefit any individual, the applicants state. Nor does the organization receive local, state or federal grants. Donations and contributions from churches and individuals contribute to the services provided, the applicants state. The organization does not engage in political activity, they go on to state.

Another question asks if the organization provides services for the common good of the public. The applicants state that “it is our mission to provide a safe and peaceful place for families, churches and the community. This includes summer camping, spiritual retreats, weekend recreation and a venue for weddings and other community events.”

The property is valued at $704,500 as of Jan. 1. The board has not yet set a rate this year. The annual tax revenue from the property was $3,654 in 2015 based on the rate of 57 cents per $100 of the assessed value.

Freddie Helsley, president of Shenandoah Meadows and pastor in the local Brethren Church group, and Mike Finks, property manager for the camp, spoke to the board at the work session. The church group bought the property from the Stanley family in 2005.

“We are a mission point for the Brethren Church … and we also facilitate other denominations in their attempt to promote Christianity and the salvation of their children and the people in their church,” Finks told the board. “We not only work as our own church group but we facilitate kingdom growth.”

Other denominations that promote Christianity also use the camp, Finks said. Camp users have come from all over the United States and other countries. Campers support the county, Finks said. The camp has increased its advertising in order to attract more users. The camp serves more than 1,000 people each year, Finks told the board. The church also rents out the camp to other groups.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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