Charlotte Manager Marcus Jones Pledges To Finish Trail, Will Study Using Tourism Taxes
Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones said Friday that he's committed to finishing the 26-mile Cross Charlotte Trail as originally envisioned, and said he will look at different pots of money - including tourism taxes - to pay for it.
The Charlotte City Council was stunned Monday when city staff members said they were short $77 million to finish the project.
The city had budgeted $38 million to link existing trails and greenways to build the continuous trail, which let pedestrians and cyclists to go from one end of the county to the other.
On Monday, the city said it would only be able to link existing trails and greenways to create a continuous 18-mile trail. For the rest of the trail, the city would make some improvements to existing roads and streets, and would direct pedestrians and cyclists there. Most of the unfinished part of the trail is in northeast Charlotte.
"The commitment is to finish the Cross Charlotte Trail in its original version," Jones said in an interview with WFAE.
Jones didn’t say when that might happen. But he says he will look at different pots of money in the city to find the $77 million.
One of those pots is the city’s hotel/motel tax, which is restricted by state law for tourism projects. Council member Braxton Winston said Monday that the city should see if it can use that money to finish the trail, which he said could be a tourism asset.
Jones said they would "absolutely" look at the hotel/motel tax to finish the trail.
"What we’re doing is we’re trying to make sure that we’re trying to discover all of those opportunities that are out there, including existing pots of money," he said. "Legally we’re seeing if we can do that."
The city's hotel/motel taxes and a 1 percent tax on prepared food and beverages generate about $91 million a year.
Some of that money is restricted to uses like the Convention Center, but other funds can be spent on general tourism projects and marketing the city.
In New York City, for instance, the High Line has become a popular attraction. It’s an elevated park/greenway on an abandoned rail line in Manhattan.
The Cross Charlotte Trail has been in planning stages since 2012.
Jones has been City Manager for a little more two years, and he says he’s now making sure other capital projects are not under-funded.