Weston business owners displeased by the city’s relationship with the Weston Chamber of Commerce are prepared to take their opposition to the next stage.
At the Monday, July 29 regular board of aldermen meeting — which had been rescheduled due to lack of quorum earlier in the month — The Mad Potter owner Patrick Larsen spoke to the board in reference to a letter presented to the board in May from several downtown business owners. In it, a dozen members of the Weston business community — including Larsen — outlined their areas of concern regarding the chamber, which is funded through a three-eighths-cent tourism sales tax approved by Weston voters in 2004. Originally intended to handle economic development, marketing and staffing of a visitor’s center, the letter states the chamber is no longer functioning as intended.
Since, city and chamber officials have discussed a possible review of the city’s service contract with the chamber. The letter was copied both to the county and state auditor and called for an external audit of the chamber. No audit has occurred and city officials say the chamber provides them with regular reports on its finances.
The Weston Chamber of Commerce is funded through the three-eighths cent tax tourism tax, but Larsen said that is subject to change. He asked city officials to review the city’s purchasing policy in regards to the marketing services it receives from the chamber. Aldermen said that as the chamber is a separate entity from the city, its marketing purchases do not fall under the city’s purchasing policy.
Larsen said if the city was unwilling to change its position on the chamber, he was more than willing to take action to get the tax repealed.
“I have no problem starting that process tomorrow,” Larsen said. “It’s been 15 years so we’ve waited long enough.”
The tax was narrowly approved by voters in 2004, and a repeal measure could be placed back on the ballot by a petition initiative. A percentage of registered voters in Weston must sign a petition and those signatures be verified before any measure is placed on the ballot.
Larsen said the bulk of proceeds from the tourism tax come from Weston residents, not tourists – a claim the city contends is unfounded – and that it is time for the residents to stop footing the bill for the chamber.
Marketing the City of Weston is not entirely in the hands of the chamber, as mayor Steve George suggested the city look into updating its website and creating a unified city logo and color scheme to better brand the city. The municipal website, which was created years ago, is outdated and incompatible with mobile devices. An updated site would improve communication and transparency with the public, he said, for both residents and visitors.
Also at the meeting, Denise Hill, who for a time operated an illegal Airbnb operation on Walnut Street, asked the board to consider changing current bed and breakfast regulations to allow her to open a legal bed and breakfast operation.