CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A resolution that would set up a November vote on a plan involving the Boy Scouts passed the House of Delegates Wednesday.
The proposed amendment to the state Constitution would give certain tax breaks to the Boy Scouts of America’s Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Fayette County. The organization says it wants to make the facility available to community events but it doesn’t want to jeopardize its tax-exempt status.
Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, argued against the proposed resolution before the House. She said she’s glad the Boy Scouts chose Fayette County for its large facility but this proposal goes too far.
“It’s bad public policy to pass this tax break when we have huge budget deficits,” Fleischauer said.
The delegate added the proposal is unfair to other non-profit groups who don’t have the same tax breaks and to aspiring businesses that may want to develop near the Bechtel site.
But House Judiciary Committee Chair Tim Manchin, D-Marion, said all the resolution does is give state residents an opportunity to vote on the proposed constitutional amendment in November. He added state leaders have been working with the Boy Scouts and the legislature will ultimately determine the allowable uses of the Summit property.
“Those safeguards that we have implemented—I think we’re protecting the community, I think we’re protecting the state and I think it’s up to the voters to decide on whether they want to go forward and how important this is,” Manchin said.
The BSA’s National Jamboree was held at the site last summer and drew thousands of Boy Scouts from across the country and many of their family members visited West Virginia. House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said that was just a taste of what’s to come.
“The actual economic development that would occur downstream from this is going to be tremendous for West Virginia,” Armstead said.
The proposed resolution now goes to the Senate to consider during the last few days of the legislative session.