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Tour home operators reorganize

Published 9:29 am Thursday, July 3, 2014

Vicksburg’s bed and breakfast group rebooted this week with a sharper eye toward current events that affect the industry, its chairman said.

Historic Properties of Vicksburg will accept membership from anyone who owns a historic property in the city, said Harry Sharp, owner of Duff Green Mansion a vocal member of the Vicksburg Bed & Breakfast Association. The latter disbanded amid a similar cancellation of the annual Tapestry event and gripes over how the tourist attractions were being taxed by the city and Warren County.

“Before, all we did was Tapestry,” Sharp said Tuesday. “Our purpose will be to lobby local elected officials and the Legislature.” Sharp added the group would accept memberships from any historic property in town, a list that would include any structure on the National Register of Historic Places, any Mississippi Landmark or any other place that “contributes to the aesthetics of the city.”

Its membership is smaller, but mirrors much of the previous group’s makeup — Sharp, Macy Whitney, co-owner of The Corners Bed & Breakfast, is vice-chair, Carolyn Stephenson, owner of Annabelle Bed & Breakfast, and Andrew Dawson, a co-owner of the Bazinsky House, is member-secretary.

Dissolving Tapestry effectively meant each bed and breakfast was on its own in terms of marketing tours and associated offerings. The event itself had been rebranded from the timeworn Pilgrimage moniker, though attendance had dwindled since its 2009 debut. Organizers said 499 visitors took part in 2014, down from 1,000 in 2013 and 1,175 in 2012.

Sharp said the group seeks a lower appraisal on property taxes for historic sites and structure, which would require an act of the Legislature. The group met Thursday with Mayor George Flaggs Jr. on the subject of property taxes and promoting the industry, which Sharp said earlier this month was lax on several fronts.

“We’re looking at ways to help them,” Flaggs said, adding new legislation out of Jackson would be the best way to secure the lower appraisals the local preservation community seeks.

Tour home operators had also taken the city and county to task for approving property tax abatements for two car dealerships, both outside the downtown-centered historic preservation district. Sharp said the group would appear at a public hearing July 21 before the Warren County Board of Supervisors on a proposal to scrap and rewrite the county’s abatement program.