Coal Township commissioners patiently waited for several years before rightly deciding this week to repeal an amusement tax ordinance that had been in limbo.
It was drafted in response to the creation of the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) and the fear that the new park would drive up costs for local taxpayers through demands for police and other public services. The effective date was amended several times as the AOAA pleaded for patience and a chance to develop into a successful enterprise.
That has happened, and along the way the AOAA donated steadily increasing annual sums to the township that reached a high of $14,000 in 2017.
On Thursday night, commissioners voted unanimously to repeal the tax before it was ever officially put into effect.
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We’re sure the commissioners see what we do. It’s not just the $14,000 contribution — though that is a nice chunk of change. It’s about the real economic development — tax revenue from employment, property improvements, new businesses and more — the AOAA is generating for Coal Township and other municipalities. Consider:
• The two major campground facilities built to accommodate visiting riders.
• The local bed and breakfasts that are serving AOAA clientele.
• Businesses such as Affordable Offroad in Tharptown, whose owner credited the AOAA for having sales climb from $80,000 to $800,000 over three years and who expects to grow his staff from four to 10 full-time employees in the next two years.
• The same company plans to re-open the former Bubba’s Bar and Grill in Gowen City as the Hillside Bar & Grille in late summer to cater to the influx of tourists coming to the park.
• Two doors down from the Bubba’s site, Access 2 Adventures opened last year to specialize in making off-roading accessible to paraplegics.
• And there’s Off Road Consulting LLC, a company specializing in teaching drivers to run their vehicles off that moved to the area and continues to expand.
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The above list is not complete, and it also doesn’t count local restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and other ancillary businesses that are feeling a positive impact from the AOAA.
A certain tension still exists between some locals and the park. Those feelings were always understood, but we hope they further dissipate with this milestone decision by the township, through which it has acknowledged that it doesn’t need a new tax to generate revenue from the AOAA.