WILMINGTON — Wilmington council’s judiciary committee requested and will consider legislation to amend the hotel lodging tax code, and will hold further discussion on creating a zoning task force.
On the hotel lodging tax code, the committee asked Marian Miller, the mayor’s executive assistant, and Wilmington Law Director Brett Rudduck to prepare an amendment stating that the Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau receives half of the hotel taxes, that council’s finance committee will hear requests for the other half, and to create a tourism-specific budget line. Committee members said they didn’t want the amendment to take effect until the start of next year.
At the last judiciary committee meeting, members of the CVB suggested an alternative – remove the administration fee, give 80 percent to the CVB and 20 percent to parks.
Judiciary committee member Matt Purkey said he doesn’t believe it’s appropriate for the judiciary committee, rather than finance committee, to make spending recommendations.
Purkey said the hotel lodging tax code says the CVB automatically receives half of the hotel taxes and council will appropriate the other half.
“That’s how we’re supposed to be doing it now,” Purkey said. “The proposal, I think, that sounds best for us is have them submit a budget.”
By Ohio law, the CVB must receive half. Ohio law also says the other half shall go to the city’s general fund, which is under council’s control.
The CVB and other interested organizations would have to apply during budget time.
“It would essentially be them asking us for money, as opposed to they’re just going to take their money,” Purkey said. “Which is the way this (the current code) is supposed to be.”
Milburn and others said they could not find any legislation creating the current split – 90 percent to the CVB and 10 percent to the city for administration.
“It just gives the power back to the finance committee and the general fund,” said committee member Kelsey Swindler.
Purkey said council would then be able to appropriate those funds as it saw fit to promote tourism, including to the CVB or nonprofits, adding that he doesn’t believe the city should keep the money in the general fund.
“It gives council more say to what projects they want to see funded or that their constituents want to see funded,” said Marian Miller, clerk of council and executive assistant to Mayor John Stanforth.
On the zoning task force, Milburn said she saw two non-Ohio cities’ approaches to reviewing their zoning codes. Both included officials from a large swath of zoning organizations, residents and others.
She said she was unable to find a similar group in Ohio.
Milburn said she wanted both residents and zoning experts on the task force and for that committee to result in recommendations for council to act upon.
Clinton County Regional Planning Executive Director Taylor Stuckert said it’s clear that residents have grievances with zoning and the city’s zoning codes are in need of changes.
“The city has probably needed to update its zoning code for a long time,” Stuckert said. “Historically, we’ve made incremental changes.”
“The reason you want citizens on it and a diverse group is to make sure the discrepancies do match what people are concerned about,” Stuckert said. “Once you get that together, then you have a list of updates, recommendations or a complete re-write.”
Swindler said the proposed overhaul differs from a repeat of Gateway zoning, a criticism offered by some, including Wilmington resident Vince Holmes, who previously called it “a do-over.”
“The key difference … When you look at something like Gateway or form zoning, it’s attempting to fix a specified problem, whereas the zoning task force is saying, ‘Figure out what the problem is,’” said Swindler.
Stuckert said the committee should begin thinking about the composition of the task force and suggested they make it a sub-committee of the city’s planning commission.
“Typically, in a community, you would involve the planning commission on all those kinds of decisions, and they would be the ones that make the final recommendation to council,” Stuckert said.
Milburn said the committee will continue its discussion at its next judiciary committee meeting.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.