[NOTE: On August 17, the plan of out-of-state billionaires to build an oversized hotel in the heart of the Harpers Ferry Historic District hit a wall. The Jefferson County Commission set aside a $30 million taxpayer subsidy (tax increment financing - TIF) to this private equity firm as local residents raised major concerns. Since 2008, the billionaires asserted that their project was fully funded. Since then, they have sought subsidies and grants, along with waivers from taxes and fees.]
JEFFERSON COUNTY COMMISSION
HILLTOP TIF HEARING - Scot Faulkner Remarks
There are several issues you need to consider before giving up to $30 million to a private equity company.
First, this will be the only hotel to receive a government subsidy from this Commission.
You are creating a dangerous precedent.
Government should not pick winners and losers in the private sector.
What prevents existing or future hotels demanding subsidies from Jefferson County Taxpayers?
Second, you are ignoring the facts.
When SWaN first arrived in Harpers Ferry, they promised to shower riches on the community.
Instead, SWaN has been given waivers from the taxes and fees they promised to pay.
SWaN has also been given federal grants and now is asking for $30 million from County Taxpayers.
During the last 15 years, SWaN has not provided or promised even one dollar of proffers to the town.
Another fact – the justification for the $30 million, and all the other waivers and subsidies, is that the SWaN hotel will save Harpers Ferry. Somehow, Harpers Ferry will become a ghost town without the oversized SWaN hotel.
Since the closing of the old Hill Top House in March 2008, Harpers Ferry has experienced a tripling of visitors. The town is packed with tourists, especially on weekends.
Over the last ten years, every major travel magazine, website, and rating has named Harpers Ferry the top tourist town in America.
All of this is happening without an oversized government subsidized hotel.
Third, all citizens of Jefferson County deserve to vote on whether $30 million of their money should go to a private interest in the smallest municipality.
Jefferson County voters have voted on smaller bond issues, including the $19 million school bond in 2016. At least school bonds benefit everyone, not a small group of private investors.
This Commission has one vacancy. It cannot speak for the entire population.
Let the people speak instead. This should go to a public referendum.