When history impacts the economy
GETTYSBURG, Pa. --Surrounded by a brewpub and a hotel, it is easy to miss Gen. Robert E. Lee’s headquarters sitting on Seminary Ridge.
Through preservation efforts, officials with the Civil War Trust hope to transform the four-acre property back to its 1863 appearance and gift the landmark to the National Park Service.
While local officials commended the preservation efforts, many were quick to point to the economic impact of potentially losing two businesses located on the property -- Appalachian Brewing Company and Quality Inn -- and the tax base they provide.
The trust, America’s largest battlefield preservation organization, plans to pay $5.5 million for the property at Gettysburg Borough’s westernmost point and, through its partnership with the Gettysburg Foun-
dation, transfer the property to the National Park Service.
"This will be our gift to the American public,"said James Lighthizer, trust president, to a crowd of more than 100 who gathered for the announcement made just yards from the small, stone house on Buford Avenue where Lee made his headquarters during the three-day battle.
Preserving the structure outside the park’s legislative boundaries makes partnerships among the park, the foundation and preservationists critical, said battlefield Super-
intendent Ed Clark.
But tenants of the property, Appalachian Brewing Com-
pany and Quality Inn, will be without homes at the end of the year. The land will no longer generate property tax revenue for Adams County, Gettysburg Borough and Gettysburg Area School District once it is owned by the trust, a nonprofit group.
At $36,000, the school district stands to lose the most annually in property taxes, according to data from the Adams County Tax Services. The county will lose $13,000 while the borough will miss out on slightly less than $13,000 per year.
While the notion is not new to local officials, such a valuable piece of property coming off the tax rolls creates an
economic impact, said John Butterfield, Gettysburg Bor-
ough Council member and chair of the borough’s finance committee.
Losing two businesses means fewer jobs and less money from local services and earned income taxes, Butterfield said. A slight tax increase, no more than one-tenth of a mill, will likely be required to offset the borough’s decrease in tax revenue, he said.
And the loss of a 48-room hotel means a drop in pillow tax revenue, the 5 percent fee levied by area inns, collected by the county and disbursed to municipalities with full-time police departments.
The Quality Inn generated more than $61,000 in pillow tax revenue last year, said John Hartzell, solicitor for Adams County.
Before the property owner, Belmar Partnership, LLC, transfers its land to the trust, the bar-restaurant and hotel will operate through 2014, said Bill Monahan, who co-owns Belmar with his brother, Tom Monahan.
With a second location at Gettysburg Gateway in Straban Township, the Appalachian will likely relocate somewhere on the southern or western side of Gettysburg, said Nate Voss, general manager at the brewpub that employs roughly 45 people.
Impact Hospitality, a local hotel management company, will manage the Quality Inn through the end of the year, Monahan said. Impact owner and President Phillip Murray said there are no plans to build a new hotel.
The hotel’s 24 employees will either receive severance packages or be repurposed to one of Impact’s three other properties, Murray said.
While preserving land is a good thing, two popular tourist destinations will no longer exist, which creates two ways to look at Tuesday’s announcement, said Norris Flowers, president of Destination Gettysburg.