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Greenport officials noncommittal about tourism marketing district

The East End Tourism Alliance is hoping to get the five East End towns on board in support of the establishment of a “tourism marketing district,” in which a fee would be added to the price of each occupied hotel room. Unlike the existing 3 percent hotel/motel tax, all of the money would stay local for use in tourism promotion and marketing on the East End.

The Alliance pitched the idea to the Greenport Village Board Thursday night and estimated that, at $1 per occupied room, the five East End towns could raise $1 million for tourism.

But the creation of the marketing district, which must be done by state legislation, is dependent on all five East End towns supporting it, according to Bryan DeLuca, co-founder of East End Tourism Alliance. State Senator Ken LaValle has said he won’t support it unless all five towns are together.

To date, it’s not looking like the Southold Town Board is in support.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he is not supporting the measure because he hasn’t been shown that businesses support it.

“It isn’t up to me to oppose it or support it,” Mr. Russell said by email. “It is up to the impacted businesses, in this case, hotels/motels and B&B’s. I have recently heard from quite a few who have expressed vehement opposition to the tax.”

He said the Town Board had asked Mr. DeLuca to gauge the support of businesses for the proposal a year ago.

“Recently, they told the board that they did and there was a lot of support,” he said. “Based on the opposition I am hearing, it is clear that they didn’t. Further, those same owners told me that no one ever even contacted them.”

Mr. Russell added, “To me, the conversation is over.”

Interviews with Southold Town Board members Jim Dinizio, Jill Doherty and Bob Ghosio had similar responses, that they haven’t heard support for the measure.

Mr. Dinizio said he’s neither in favor nor opposed, but he had wanted to get more information and possibly have a public hearing, which didn’t happen. Ms. Doherty said “we’re not in position to make a decision because they are not giving us the information we’re asking for,” which was information to show that local hotels/motels and B&Bs support the proposal.

She said she is now hearing businesses saying they are opposed. Mr. Ghosio said he has heard opposition from businesses as well.

Mr. DeLuca, who made a presentation to the Southold Town Board in March, made a presentation about the marketing district at Thursday’s Village Board meeting, and didn’t get an immediate show of support from a majority of that board, either.

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. and Trustees Mary Bess Phillips and Jack Martilotta all said after the meeting that they need to read the material Mr. DeLuca presented to the board before making a decision.

Trustee Julia Robins said the Greenport Village Business Improvement District has come out in support. She feels the village should try to convince Mr. Russell to support the marketing district.

Trustee Doug Roberts asked if the village can use the money raised by the fee if the town doesn’t want it.

“We’re the tourist destination on the North Fork,” he said.

He also urged people to go to the next Southold Town Board meeting to drum up support for the marketing district.

Ms. Phillips said she feels that towns like Riverhead and Southampton will get the bulk of the money because they have more hotels.

Mr. DeLuca said the existing county hotel/motel tax has a cap on how much can be used for tourism, so that if the tax generates $10 million, only $2 million goes to the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Yvonne Lieblein of Greenport, who has been involved with the LICVB and the Greenport BID, said she supports the marketing district. She said it’s more streamlined process than the county hotel tax and will allow local municipalities to decide for themselves how best to use the funds.

Photo caption: Yvonne Lieblein and Bryan DeLuca urge Greenport Village Board members to support a tourism marketing district. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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