LTAC grants benefit county-wide tourism

The San Juan County 2017 Lodging Tax Facilities Grant Program distributed $721,250 this year …

The San Juan County 2017 Lodging Tax Facilities Grant Program distributed $721,250 this year, a more than 50 percent increase over 2016’s $477,800.

The San Juan County Council approved 19 grants that were recommended by the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee on Oct. 10. A total amount of $793,925 was requested by 20 applicants. Two additional applicants requested funds after the deadline and they were awarded by the committee.

The committee also chose to grant $100,000 toward developing affordable housing for employees in tourist-related companies.

“We felt it was important to start getting involved in the process,” said Rick Hughes, county councilman on the committee. “Every single person on the board felt that affordable housing is the biggest problem facing the county.”

San Juan County has a tourism facilities program which is funded by a portion of the revenue collected by the state’s lodging tax. Annually, county departments, nonprofits and destination marketing organizations apply for grants to aid in maintenance and promotion for the upcoming year.

San Juan performing arts centers, a collaboration between Lopez Center for Community and the Arts, Orcas Center and San Juan Community Theatre, requested $98,000 and were granted $104,000; Deer Harbor Plan Review Committee Trails requested $100,000 and was granted $50,000; Orcas Island Jazz Festival requested $8,025 and received $5,000; the county’s Orcas Landing public space requested $12,400 and received $6,200; San Juan County historical museums requested $99,000 and received $79,000; “Welcome to Eastsound” wayfinding signage as requested by the Orcas Chamber of Commerce received its requested amount of $1,500; Friday Harbor Airport and U.S. Customs clearance space requested $50,000 and was gifted $25,000; TEDx San Juan Island requested and received $10,000; TEDx Orcas Island requested $13,500 and received $10,000; San Juan County Parks and Fairgrounds operations requested and received $246,000; Orcas Landing public space requested and received $50,000; Orcas Island off-leash area requested and received $21,000; Refurbishing Eastsound Village Green as requested by Orcas Chamber asked for $11,000 and received $5,000; Orcas Island Film Festival requested $18,500 and received $15,000; Orcas Museum Agriculture exhibit shed requested and received $7,500; Lopez Center requested and received $14,500; San Juan Island Museum of Art exhibit/events promotion requested $32,000 and received $7,950; Affordable housing planning and land acquisition was granted $100,000 though it requested nothing; and all the island chambers of commerce received $80,000.

San Juan Islands Sculpture Park and Friday Harbor Film Festival both submitted requests after the deadline and were both granted funds. The park requested $5,965 and was granted $3,800 and the film festival requested $17,500 and was granted $8,740.

Orcas Island Bird and Wildlife Festival requested $1,000 but was not granted anything.

County Auditor F. Milene Henley spoke to the committee before they made their decision saying that it is likely there will be more than $900,000 in lodging tax income next year to be granted around the county.

“Revenue is just going through the roof,” said Henley. “We were holding back some of the money.”

Program details and applicant information can be found at the LTAC website: