KILLINGTON-At the Killington selectboard meeting last Tuesday,
Sept. 18, Selectman Jim Haff proposed an idea for "something big,"
something that would significantly move the needle of economic
development to make Killington a true four-season destination. The
idea he outlined was a partnership between the town and resort
investing $15 million-$20 million into infrastructure at the base
of the mountain.
The idea was hatched recently and the specifics have yet to be
determined, Haff explained to fellow board members.
"I said to Chris [Nyberg] what if you had $l5-$20 million to put
into the resort right now? What would you do?" Nyberg, the
president of Killington Resort at the time, took some time to think
before responding, Haff said. His answer was a combination of
activities including new beginning and intermediate bike trails at
Snowshed, a rope course, a Pico interconnect trail, a mountain
coaster, ziplines (noting that if one was constructed from the top
of K1 to the base it would be the longest in North America), and
even included a composting and a recycling facility and biomass
"Chris was behind the 'what if' of this idea," reported Haff. At
this point, "it is just an idea to move forward; a way to move the
needle," he said. Adding, "regional growth counts on
In 2007, the Killington Growth Initiative committee hatched a
plan and implemented the 1 percent local option tax to stimulate
economic growth. That plan has been recently called into question
and this summer the Killington Chamber of Commerce commissioned the
Strategic Marketing Group to provide an expert opinion about town
economic development efforts and ways improve town marketing. The
study found the local option tax to be an inefficient funding
source because 30 percent of the tax is lost to the state.
Haff suggested that funding for his idea could come from
repealing the 30 percent of the 1 percent local option tax paid to
the state. According to Haff, if the town could keep the full 1
percent to use for economic development, it would gain about
$300,000 to $400,000 per year. Haff's idea is to use this
additional sum to leverage a $10 million bond, which, in
partnership with the resort, would enable them to build attractions
that would have a positive impact on tourism for the region.
Killington annually collects about $1 million under the local
option tax, but is required to give 30 percent of the collected
amount to the state by existing statute. Changing that provision
would require a change in state law or petitioning the Legislature
for a possible exception. Representative Jim Eckhardt told the
selectboard on Tuesday that he would work to get such legislation
enacted if the town supported Haff's idea and wanted to move
One attendee at the meeting questioned the likelihood of
Killington getting the 30 percent back from the state.
Haff acknowledged that it was not a given, but he said that
unlike at least 10 other towns in the state who have also enacted a
local option tax, Killington is the only one that uses it directly
for economic development and tourism and the state benefits from
For the state, this as an investment, Haff continued, saying the
town and resort would need to show that the increase in the 6
percent state tax on hotels and meals plus the retail sales tax
that the state would collect from the increase in tourism, would be
much greater than the loss of the 30 percent collected from the
local option tax.
"The resort is the economic engine of the area" said Haff,
stating that tourism to Killington makes all surrounding businesses
Those attending the selectboard meeting were receptive to Haff's
idea and had questions. Anticipating this, Haff opened a new email
account dedicated to gathering input and opinions about his
proposed idea. The email is GrowKillingtonEconomy@gmail.com - all
were encouraged to participate in the discussion there.
With the recent change in management at Killington Resort,
Nyberg's initial ideas for how to spend the $15-$20 million are now
left to the new president of Killington Resort, Mike Solimono. Haff
and Solimono, along with Rob Megnin and Rep. Eckhardt met for lunch
on Monday, Sept. 24 to discuss these ideas among others. Solimono
was generally supportive, Haff said.
"How and what comes out of this idea is unknown, but we will
never know until we try," he said. "It's now time to put the idea
into a plan."