VLN ready to negotiate
by Staff Writer
by Josh Lanier
Attorneys for Visit Lake Norman have signed off on an interlocal agreement that meets all of the north Mecklenburg towns’ demands in hopes of healing the battered relationship and retrieving the tax dollars the towns are holding hostage.
This agreement, which governs the relationship between the tourism agency and the towns, ends eight months of acrimonious exchanges and stalemated negotiations that found its way to the state legislature.
In the agreement Visit Lake Norman accepted the following conditions:
• Increasing the size of its board of directors to 18 members, with the towns appointing nine members. Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson will appoint three members each, including one representative from each town’s “restaurant/attractions section,” which can include a parks and recreation employee. This would take effect Jan. 1.
• Giving the towns power to appoint half the members of Visit Lake Norman’s Executive Committee. The tourism agency also agrees to give the towns notice about executive committee meetings.
• Securing the agreement of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce to relinquish its power to veto any changes in the tourism agency’s governance.
• Providing annual financial audits to the town.
In an email to the towns’ managers, Visit Lake Norman’s Attorney Cathy Bentz asked the towns’ to turn over the hotel motel and prepared food tax dollars that are guaranteed to the agency by state mandate, as long as the chamber leadership has agreed to give up its veto power.
On Wednesday afternoon, sources said the chamber executive committee had endorsed the change, and the full chamber board was expected to confirm the change by Friday. Chamber President Bill Russell did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday.
In her email to the town managers, Bentz wrote, “As you know, VLN has operated in good faith with the towns for years, and we ask that you trust it to make the changes agreed to in the agreement without causing it unnecessary hardship by holding funds. The withholding of these funds and insecurity regarding payment is causing VLN to have to delay on bids of events that would be very beneficial to all of the towns and their businesses.
“Let’s please start working together again for the best interests of businesses in all of the towns,” the email continued in bolded text.
The towns’ boards will need to approve the updated interlocal agreement. Huntersville will meet next week and is expected to vote on the measure then.
“My guess is it will get a favorable review from the board,” Huntersville Manager Greg Ferguson said. “… I think everyone is fairly pleased with this.”
Davidson commissioners next meet on Sept. 12, but the Cornelius town board doesn’t convene again until Sept. 19.
The agreement, if approved, will be in place until 2020.