Updated May 6 at 2 pm.
From the moment the idea of instituting a room tax in Door County was broached in 2005 it was apparent that folding Sturgeon Bay and its existing room tax into the rest of the county was going to be problematic.
Now, as the city faces being left out of the DCVB’s biggest promotions, Sturgeon Bay businesses are urging the city council to come up with a solution.
At the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center’s annual meeting, the audience was asked if they would be in favor of Sturgeon Bay joining the Door County Tourism Zone Commission (DCTZ) if the Sturgeon Bay Visitor were to receive funds from the city to continue its job. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
“I didn’t see a single hand that wasn’t raised,” said Brian Kelsey, Director of the Door County Maritime Museum and a member of the Door County Visitor Bureau’s Board of Directors.
“There’s definitely a growing support.”
City Councilman Ben Meyer said he’s been hearing support from constituents.
“Absolutely, everyone seems to be in favor of joining the zone,” he said. “More and more it seems like the right thing to do.”
Mayor Tom Voegele said he hasn’t had many people talk specifically about it to him other than those with the most to win or lose, though he recognized the SBVC cannot provide marketing for the city on par with the DCVB. Many Sturgeon Bay business owners would like the city to join the tourism zone, thus upping their room tax from four percent to 5.5 percent. However, they would like the 30 percent of the tax collected that goes to the city to be used to fund the city’s visitor center, not go into the general fund.
"The big question is whether the council is willing to take that money out of the budget," he said.
While the communities who make up the DCTZ were featured in an insert in the latest edition of Midwest Living magazine, Sturgeon Bay could not be included since they weren’t a member of DCTZ, sparking fears that the city, after a decade of building its tourism share, will lose ground in the fight for visitor dollars.
“We’re in danger of the Bayview Bridge becoming a bypass to the rest of Door County again,” Kelsey said.
Voegele said he hopes to get the issue before the city’s Common Council by early June at the latest, though it may get bumped to the finance committee for review first.