WOODSTOCK - Town officials are discussing tourism zones in an effort to spur both economic development and a business-friendly environment.
Town Council members Michael Funkhouser, Jacqueline Lambert, A. Paje Cross, Alicia Gutshall, Stephen Heishman and Frank Haun along with Town Manager Angela Clem, Deputy Town Manager Aaron Grisdale, Mayor Jeremy McCleary, and Lemuel Hancock, an urban designer and neighborhood planner, were all present to hear Grisdale discuss tourism zones.
“This is something we are permitted to do per state code and we wanted to explore that,” Grisdale said. “A tourism zone can be another tool.”
There are 72 tourism zones already designated in Virginia, including Strasburg, New Market and Front Royal, Grisdale said.
A tourism zone is a town council-designated area that allows businesses to take advantage of incentives that are structured to facilitate business attraction, growth, and increased employment opportunities, specifically in tourism-related industries, Grisdale said.
Incentives within a tourism zone can be structured as either financial or regulatory incentives, or both. Financial incentives could include a reduction of certain taxes, fees or development charges. Regulatory incentives may include the relaxation of specific zoning or other regulatory requirements, he said.
Grisdale said there is a need to at least explore tourism boards that Woodstock could use as another tool to promote investment in both properties and in new or expanded businesses. It could also be a tool to help increase and diversify the tax and business base.
Additional business activity tends to reinforce livability in a community, he said.
Council members asked the town staff to continue researching the issue and to come back at a future meeting with recommendations as to how Woodstock would structure a tourism zone program.
Gutshall thanked Grisdale for his presentation.
“It has potential,” Gutshall said.
After the meeting via text message to the Northern Virginia Daily, McCleary said he looks forward to hearing more information.
"It sounds like it may provide us with more options, but I would need more information about it," he stated.