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Rogers council updates hotel, motel ordinance

by Janelle Jessen | July 14, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.
NWA Democrat-Gazette/JASON IVESTER Rogers City Hall; stock art photographed on Monday, April 11, 2016

ROGERS -- City Council members on Tuesday expanded the definition of services subject to the 3% city hotel and motel tax to include houses.

The additional word will not add a new tax and doesn't change what the city can tax, but rather clarifies it, said Raymond Burns, president and CEO of Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce. The city ordinance already included cabins, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds and condominiums.

The update reflects changes made to state statute 26-75-602, dealing with authorized gross tax receipts, during the 2021 legislative session, which also added the word house to the definition, Burns said.

Currently, the city taxes only hotels and motels, but the advertising and promotions commission will likely look at taxing other short-term rentals, including private rentals such as Airbnb and VRBO -- or Vacation Rental By Owner -- in the future out of a sense of fairness, Burns said.

"This just takes the state statute and aligns it with the local ordinance," Burns said. "When that times comes (to tax other short-term rentals) or whether it doesn't come, the difference is a better definition of what the commission can do -- rather than being implied, it's spelled out."

The 3% city hotel and motel tax is used by Visit Rogers to market the city as a tourism destination, according to J.R. Shaw, Visit Rogers executive director. Bringing tourism to the city creates an economic impact that benefits residents of the city and adds new dollars to the tax base, he said.

In other business, City Council members amended the budget to accept an $18,802 settlement for defective maintenance to the Adult Wellness Center's koi pond, killing the koi fish.

The settlement was paid by River Rock Water Gardens and Hiscox Insurance Company.

The company cleaned the center's koi pond last summer, resulting in a total loss of the fish, according to Lesli Ossenfort, Adult Wellness Center director. Many of the fish were expensive donations made to the center over the years. The pond had been in place for 14 years and some of the fish had grown to a significant size and age that added to their value, she said.

"They were like pets to us," she said.

The council also voted to accept a $148,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for the Rogers Executive Airport.

The grant is part of the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law March 11 and will be used to offset the financial impact of covid-19, according to a proposal to enter into an agreement with the FAA for the grant. The money will be used for operation and maintenance of the airport, and matching money from the city is not required, it states.

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