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The Charleston Gazette: For the Boy Scout amendment

— *** Newspaper Endorsements 2014 ***—

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Another issue before West Virginia voters this fall is the “Nonprofit Youth Organization Tax Exemption Support Amendment,” a change to the state Constitution that would help the Boy Scouts of America make the most of their fantastic Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County. We urge voters to pass the amendment.

The Boy Scouts have invested millions in the property to offer scouts world-class zip lines, rope course, mountain biking and other outdoors fun and learning, all near the New River Gorge. It is the permanent home of the National Boy Scout Jamboree every four years and offers other events every summer.

During months when the site is idle, the Boy Scouts would like to host other events, some of them managed by for-profit companies. That would bring in welcome revenue to the Scouts, to help support the site, and welcome traffic to nearby businesses. For example, concerts may be attracted to the 80,000-seat amphitheater or skateboard contests could be drawn to the sites ramps and parks.

The hitch is that state law is unclear on what happens if a nonprofit group lets a for-profit company use its property. Under some interpretations, a group could lose its nonprofit status.

This amendment, written very specifically for properties “owned by nonprofit youth organizations and built at cost of at least $100 million” would apply only to the Summit Bechtel Reserve. It would guarantee that such property would be exempt from property tax whether it was used for the primary nonprofit mission or some fundraising effort for the organization.

This amendment would not take any taxable property off of Fayette County’s books. The Boy Scouts are already a nonprofit organization and not required to pay property taxes, although the organization does pay sales tax and other obligations.

Without this assurance, Gary Hartley, director of community and government relations for Summit, has said the Boy Scouts would simply not host any events managed by for-profit companies. That is not the Boy Scouts’ mission, he said, and they simply would not jeopardize their tax-exempt status.

Guarding against unfair competition for local businesses is a must. The amendment addresses that need by requiring the Legislature to enact laws to govern the use of the site to prevent unfair competition and unreasonable loss of revenue.

And so far, the Boy Scouts have been good for local business. Hartley noted that they were able to send Scouts to nearby rafting companies during low-crowd weekdays, patronizing those businesses without consuming their valuable weekend capacity.

Under those conditions, drawing thousands more people to Fayette County restaurants, hotels, shops and other recreational sites can only aid the local and state economy. Imagine the experience of people who meet West Virginia by attending a concert or some sporting event near the beautiful New River Gorge.

West Virginians should vote for this amendment.

Follow The Charleston Gazette’s endorsements and news coverage at http://www.wvgazette.com/

Editor’s Note: The West Virginia Press Association is compiling political endorsements offered by its member newspapers to give readers a statewide view. For more endorsements, visit https://wvpress.wpengine.com/opinion/endorsementweek2014/

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