By Alicia Petska
The Salem City Council voted to create five tourism zones Monday where eligible projects could qualify for local and state incentives.
The zones — covering about 0.6 square miles or 4.4 percent of the city — encompass downtown, the Salem Civic Center area, the East Main Street gateway, the long-vacant Valleydale Foods plant and a stretch of Kessler Mill Road that includes Parkway Brewing Co.
More detailed policies about incentive options, eligibility criteria and priorities for each zone will now be developed by city staff.
Any incentive packages offered in the future will require the council’s stamp of approval. The zone boundaries can be updated over time as needed to capture new areas of interest in the city.
Salem is the 20th municipality to carve out local tourism zones to capitalize on the state incentive opportunities available through the Virginia Tourism Development Financing Program.
Under that program, state and local authorities agree to help defray the costs of an eligible, locally endorsed project, using a funding formula driven by the amount of sales tax the project generates.
The funding is considered “gap financing” with the developer required to cover more than 70 percent of all project costs.
Localities are given leeway to offer additional local tax breaks and incentives beyond that to help lure projects into the tourism zones.
Salem’s policies will be fleshed out by administrators in the coming weeks.
In an interview, city planner Ben Tripp said the fledgling program has no applicants in the pipeline now, but the initiative is another tool the city can wield as it works to revitalize and create new destination points.
The move comes as the city is intensifying focus on those priorities and starting talks about crafting a Salem-specific tourism plan.
Source: The Roanoke Times, obtained 1Dec2016