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City demurs on chance to weigh in on Playhouse tax

The Hendersonville City Council members, given the opportunity to take a position on the politically charged tourism tax for Flat Rock Playhouse, knew a third rail when they saw one. No thanks, they said, you guys go ahead.

County Manager Steve Wyatt sent a letter to Mayor Barbara Volk inviting the city to participate in next Wednesday's public meeting on the Playhouse tax. "One person from your organization will be given the opportunity to state your official position," it said.
Mayor Volk said she planned to go and wanted to know whether the council wanted to state its position. Recognizing a no-win trap, council members unanimously declined to to take a position.
"It's unfortunate the county or the Flat Rock Playhouse cannot win on this," Councilman Ron Stephens said. "If they vote for the tax, a lot of people are going to be upset about this. It's a county issue and I think we need to stay out of it."
Councilman Steve Caraker said the city's $300,000 commitment ought not be equated with the $225,000 a year occupancy tax the Playhouse would receive for two years if the commissioners say yes. The city money went toward renovating the Playhouse Downtown performance venue on South Main.
"I voted to affirm the Flat Rock Playhouse as an economic development tool for the city," he said. "I don't know that we have a dog in this fight. We've made our commitment to the Playhouse over a three-year term. That was basically to build their venue. It was a bricks and mortar deal and nothing else."
Mayor pro tem Jeff Collis said: "My thought is that's theirs. I don't think we need to jump into it."
In related action, the council appointed three members to the new Henderson County Tourism Development Authority. The appointments were all currently serving on the county Travel and Tourism Board, which will be replaced by the authority.
The council appointed Selena Einwechter, innkeeper of the Bed and Breakfast at Tiffany Hill in Mills River, for a five-year term; City Manager Bo Ferguson, for a four-year term; and BJ Ramer, of the ECCO aquarium on North Main Street, for a three-year term.
The change in the board makeup and restructuring of the board as an authority presents an opportunity for the City Council to review its priorities for tourism promotion, Councilman Jerry Smith said. He recommended that the council set a meeting of two council members and the city's three appointees "so that our three members are working as a team for the things that are important to us."
The council agreed to the meeting, with Smith and Stephens as the council's delegates.