West Virginia voters OK tax exemption for the Summit

Among the big winners in yesterday’s election: the Boy Scouts of America, Summit Bechtel Reserve and people of West Virginia.

Voters in West Virginia approved by a 24-point margin an amendment that allows SBR to open its doors to non-Scouting groups while maintaining its tax-exempt status.

Yes, SBR is and will continue to be a high-adventure paradise for Scouts and Venturers.

But it was always intended to be shared with the people of West Virginia when Scouting events aren’t going on.

The passage of “West Virginia Nonprofit Youth Organization Tax Exemption, Amendment 1” means the BSA can continue its work with community partners and other organizations to open the doors of SBR and its 10,600 acres to all.

That could mean using the 80,000-seat AT&T Summit Stadium to host concerts and other events. Or it could mean opening the world-class archery, shooting, BMX biking, mountain biking, skateboarding and other outdoor facilities to host national touring sports competitions, according to a news release on the official Scouting Newsroom blog.

West Virginians made their support of this idea pretty clear yesterday. With all precincts reporting, the measure passed with 61.9 percent of the vote, a margin of victory of nearly 100,000 votes.

SBR director Dan McCarthy, quoted in the news release, expressed his appreciation and readiness to continue the great work of the SBR team.

“West Virginia has been a valuable partner since we began development of the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, and we look forward to continuing our long-term relationship with this great state,” he said.

The amendment, in case you’re curious, reads:

To amend the State Constitution to exempt from property tax certain properties in this state owned by nonprofit youth organizations and built at cost of at least $100 million whether or not the property is used for the nonprofit youth organization’s charitable or nonprofit purpose to help raise funds for the benefit of the nonprofit youth organization. If approved, the Legislature would be required to enact laws that would protect local and regional businesses from unfair competition and unreasonable loss of revenue caused by the nonprofit organization use of the tax exemption.



  1. So will this mean that if a scout troop wants to use the camp, they will be bumped out of their own camp if someone with a larger wallet uses the SBR at the same time? This has happened at nearby scout camps. Then the local council wonders why people do not support scouting.

    • The Summit is not a local council camp. Local troops do not do weekend camping on their own at BSA High Adventure Camps.

    • Seriously? That’s like telling your employer that you’ll no longer be coming to work because you wouldn’t want to give your children the impression that your life is all about money rather than about the family??? I LONG to live in a world where we can solely focus on spending time with our kids — BUT — just because that is COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE for 99% of Americans, I don”t think BSA is any different than we are in working toward a SUSTAINABLE option that includes a great future for BSA’s newest High Adventure and Training facility.

      There is balance to life in ALL aspects. 150-400 million all told for SBR and I think BSA would be wise sharing Eleven THOUSAND Acres just a bit with the fine people of West Virginia to provide great Youth Programs options for all Youth Organizations while maintaining and improving it with some funds for the NEXT Century, perhaps?

    • This is about utilizing the Summit as a revenue stream during the 40 other weeks that they’re not running high adventure there during the summer. Utilizing the revenue generated from outside events/activities to fund growth and pay down the debt incurred when they built the facility. It can be about the kids and the money. They’re not mutually exclusive. You do, in fact, need both.

  2. I agree with Elizabeth, if you have been to SBR you know it is a massive place with more than enough room for multiple groups. It only makes sense to actually use the site as much as possible. It hosted over 30,000 Scouts last summer!

    • The tax revenue that the BSA will not have to pay now because of the amendment is needed in Fayette County. Taking 10,000 acres and generating income without having to contribute to the host community makes the SBR a bad neighbor and a bad example. Having a special interest amendment to the constitution of a state, asking for special privilege is a bad precedent. Shame on you, BSA.

      • Sorry, Colleen, but you need to do some research. As is the case with any non-profit, BSA wasn’t paying any property tax revenue BEFORE this amendment. It downs;’t change that fact.

        Without the amendment, they would have never jeopardized that non-profit status by allowing any commercial operations on their property. The amendment now allows them to make The Summit available for such commercial events. That will attract tourists who will now stay in Fayette County hotels and eat in Fayette county restaurants adding to the local economy.

        • “The amendment now allows them to make The Summit available for such commercial events. That will attract tourists who will now stay in Fayette County hotels and eat in Fayette county restaurants adding to the local economy.”

          OK, Gary (or anyone else promoting this sow’s ear/silk purse), please provide a valid link to the economic impact study done by the B$A, any WV state or local economic development agency, or perhaps WVU. That economic impact study, done before this amendment was considered, should clearly show how this change in tax-exempt status and rental to outside groups by the B$A will have a positive benefit on the local economy.

          We’re all waiting.

  3. The idea of having concerts while scouts are there worries me. Too much drinking, drugs and lewd behavior are all too common. Anything from raves, rap or rock concerts can bring in a certain element. I hope BSA will be selective in who they allow to use the facilities and remember the scout promise!

    • They will have to. Per their own policy from the Guide to Safe Scouting, section IV:

      “It is the policy of the Boy Scouts of America that the use of alcoholic beverages and controlled substances is not permitted at encampments or activities on property owned and/or operated by the Boy Scouts of America, or at any activity involving participation of youth members.”

      Pretty black and white there. No alcoholic beverages allowed for any activity at the SBR as it is definitely owned and operated by the BSA.

  4. There are two Boy Scouts of America. One is the “Corporate BSA”, which Scout leaders do not enter. It’s all about corporate sponsors, numbers, statistics, and money.

    The other is the “hiking boots on the ground”, flesh and blood, up with homesick Scouts program that we know.

    I don’t think the founders of Boy Scouts of America would recognize it anymore.

  5. The scouting professionals are all about $$$$ first and the program a very distant second. The issue last year that had to do with sex and scouting was only about the money as corporations blackmailed the BSA into selling its principles.

    The youth are the ones being short changed here. If you get the program right, the money will follow. But if you put money first, then the program suffers!!!

    • Stuart! You struck a very powerful chord! As you say, “If you get the program right, the money will follow.” I believe this wholeheartedly. (Oh, oh. Here’s that soapbox….) Membership and retention ride on the back of a PROGRAM that is fun and unique! In my opinion, along with the newer, attractive, high-tech offerings, the emphasis of the BSA’s program should be on the traditional outdoor skills approach to ENJOYING the outdoors. Happily, the Summit provides the grounds for a rich, multi-faceted Scouting experience.

  6. This is the mentality that gets BSA all the liability for non scout groups that come in, get hurt and then sue us. Going for the dollars and making a BSA property a public property has cost many other scout councils dearly. In addition, when you start allowing non scout groups in, in comes the trash, the alcohol, the drugs, the crime, the problems. So, I’d agree, somebody won on the election, but it wasn’t the Boy Scouts.

    • The BSA and the Summit have substantial insurance policies in place to cover injury related lawsuits. Drugs, crime and other problems that come with concerts can be mitigated with the appropriate police presence. I’m guessing you’re a glass half empty type.

      • That’s fine, judge me, but your insurers, won’t continue to insure you when you get a few million dollar hits. And if you believe the police can manage a concert crowd, then your are naïve. The goal of the Boy Scouts, is building character and leadership qualities in Boy Scout members. Raising money and providing our resources for non scout groups is not our mission.

  7. The question for the WVA voter seemed to be whether to allow the BSA to let them use the Summit for non-Scout activities for profit. The BSA can obviously use it for BSA profit (see the Jamboree and training and High Adventure Base stuff). The constitutional amendment was obviously meant only for the Summit property. No other property in the state matched the requirements (?$100 million ?). The BSA keeps it’s un-taxed status, it makes money for the BSA, and (hopefully) pulls OPM (that real estate term: “Other People’s Money”) into the region. The fear of a Woodstock type of event looming on the mountain state horizon not withstanding, BSA can invite universities, corporations, (coal companies?) , outfitters, movie production companies, oh, LOTS of folks to come and make use of the reclaimed strip mine site that is the Summit, for a price……..

  8. Folks who are commenting here don’t seem to get it nor have followed the issue before this post. It’s a win-win-win for the Scouts, BSA, and the taxpayers of WVA, which is why it passed so overwhelmingly.

    The Summit, like most national Scout camps, sits idle for about 9 months out of the year. National bases like it aren’t geared for local unit weekend camping anyway.

    The idea behind the initiative was to allow the Summit facilities, which were very expensive to build, to be used for things like the commercial X Games in the shoulder seasons when Scouts aren’t there anyway. The Scouts will think it’s cool that they get to use skate parks, mountain bike trails, and climbing facilities that the best in the world have used.

    That will allow the kids to continue to use the world class facilities by themselves during the normal Scout events while allowing outside world class events to use them at other times to help pay for their maintenance. Additionally, these outside prevent participants will use the local area hotels and restaurants etc. to help support the local economy.

    All in all, it’s a good thing for our Scouts.

    • Ditto, Gary.

      But, the other way around may be even truer, that is, the Scouts will think it’s cool that “the best in the world” get to share their “playground” (!)

      Seriously though, Scouts ought to be society’s trailblazers, rather than be celebrities’ followers.

  9. This is a fantastic law. Now the BSA can utilize the property and actually make a profit from outside sources when the facility isn’t in use for scouting related activities. It also the Summit and BSA to pay down debt incurred as a result of building up the facility without hitting up donors. The local community should see more people as a result of things like concerts. The hotel infrastructure should see some improvements, more people patronizing restaurants, etc. This is good all around.

    • Greg,
      How will allowing the scouts to unfairly complete with local businesses benefit local businesses? The Summit Reserve is an entirely inclusive “resort”. Guests stay on property, eat on property, and leave. Localities saw very little in the form of business during the Jamboree when it was “at capacity”. Why would they see more business when it’s not? Is it fair to make local outfitters (who pay taxes) compete with the Summit (unfairly) for the Scout troops they’ve been hosting in the area for years along with other groups that are not scouts because the scouts can offer lower rates on an untaxed business. How does Fayette County benefit from the loss to taxes from businesses that are taxed by taking their business and giving it to an entity that those businesses can’t possibly compete with?

      • You’re comparing Apples and Oranges. Kid-oreinted Jamboree and Scouting activities are inclusive as kids don’t drive.;

        Things that this law now allows there like the X Games where adult TV crews and outside folks come are more likely to use outside hotels and restaurants.

    • The city park near me hosted a big concert festival. Two days after it ended, I went for a walk down there and couldn’t even tell they had been there.

      These companies that put on concerts are professionals and do a great job of setting up quickly and leaving with no trace.

  10. Any of you ever been to West Virginia ? Beautiful Mountains. Big Rivers & Deep gorges. Quaint small towns. Stay in a B+ B ? Eat local pub ? The Summit. A slice of Heaven. Do you know how isolated and secured it is? One long road in. We had Army checkpoints. Staged parking 5 miles out. Security checks to get on the bus. The Jamboree was secured. Our Scouts were safe from outsiders. Not just anybody drives in for a day. Our Youth worked hard . These are the First New Years at New BSA land. Be Proud ! GREAT !
    A TAX BREAK !! The NEW tax break gives the Summit a chance to save tax dollars to expand. And Open to neighbors of West Virginia. It will take a Big Big Event & Major Money to Rent a few Hundred Acres from the BSA. It will be an Event to share with the World. In your Lifetime I hope you make it there. JUST Once. I did. It’s God’s Country.
    I am also proud of our own 85 yr old. BSA Camp. New High Adventure Base. It Sends Scouts out to surrounding states with big WhiteWater. Rivers. Lakes + National Monuments. We use Outfitters sometimes- but mostly Our camp does it all and More. Thanks that 86 years ago some business men searched for open Lands + Lakes. They Dreamed of a Camp far up north in the woods. 1800 acres Now!! Camps. Lakes. Horse Ranch. A Legacy we leave to our Childrens children. . . We are Scouters and Proud of our Youth. They WILL be the National Leaders Someday !

    • I have my “First Staff” patch from the 2013 Jamboree. I visited New River Gorge and drove through some of the small towns on my way back to Texas. Hosting other events would put money into the improvement coffers and we might see solar powered water heaters raise the temperature of those lovely “ambient temperature” showers.

    • “Any of you ever been to West Virginia ? Beautiful Mountains. Big Rivers & Deep gorges.” Don’t forget the areas ravaged by mountaintop removal, where spoil is pushed over the edge to fill in hollows and waterways to (cheaply) reach the underlying coal. Don’t forget the long and sordid history of exploitation of locals and immigrants to deep mine coal, done by rich outside companies. Don’t forget about the leftovers from these earlier days, spoil piles, unreclaimed strip mines, and polluted streams. Some of the “deep gorges” are blocked by questionable dams holding back large volumes of tainted water — look up “Buffalo Creek” to see the results when one of these dams fails. But I’ll bet that part of the history isn’t told at The Summit since one of the biggest donors is a part of this nasty and often hidden history of West Virginia. I’ll bet the only story told is how wonderful it is that the Summit was build on reclaimed land and life is grand. Perhaps those who were at the Jamboree and went out into the various “Quaint small towns” can talk about just what the situation was in some of those towns, were there are few jobs and the young people move away as soon as they can.

      The winners in this are the people at the top of B$A, Inc. who can continue to collect their huge salaries, since the corporation now has a “chance to save tax dollars” that would otherwise go to help the economy of one of the poorest states in the United States.

      Sure, visit West Virginia, but peek behind the scenes at those parts that the high muckety mucks don’t want you to see, so you get the true picture.

  11. There are no costs from building this place. It was all donated for purchase and building. That plus the Army built a lot of it. All this amendment did was place the local rafting companies in danger of going under .

    I would like to know why this amendment wasn’t put out front for debate before being put to a vote. Also why does the whole state get to decide Fayette County’s fate?

    The SNR the day after the election started its advertising for trips!

    Boo on the SBR and the BSA

  12. Fayette County, where the Summit is, reject the amendment. The only reason this was passed was because the entire state was allowed to vote on something only affecting one county, while keeping the rest of the counties in the dark during election time. We will fight back.

  13. Noticing an earlier post from someone who was at the summit brought up a good point, why is it guarded by the Army? Why was FEMA, Homeland defense there, and the military, alphabet agencies, and why the Blackhawk helicopters and little bird choppers there?

  14. Ok here it is in a nutshell,I work in the rafting industry the scouts only have a few rafting permits all on the upper new,at least for now,Im sure a Corporation such as the Boy Scouts ,who where able to have a Amendment changed for their own well being will soon enough be granted river numbers on the Lower New maybe even the Gauley.This camp was donated to the scouts for the scouts and Im cool with that,its a good thing.Billions of dollars has been put into this camp it looks very nice.I think the fact that they have all this cool stuff it is a shame that it could not be used by the public all kind of events could be held at the Bechtel Reserve bringing a lot of peeps to the area,and that’s a good thing.Now if they use this land for public events such as Zip Line,Mt Biking,Climbing,Paint Ball,4 Wheeling,Concerts,and on and on.This is the thing the rafting Co. have spent billions on Zip Lines,Mt Bikes,Play Pools,Paint Ball,Lodging and Restaurants (these things make the rafting co. extra money to keep them afloat) and they have paid tax all the way and still paying,that tax goes into the community,and that’s a good thing.I have not even talked about the billions of dollars other local business have spent on their own dreams, Restaurants Lodging, Climbing, Mt Biking, so on,they have also paid tax all the way,and that’s a good thing.OK you just changed a Amendment so you could do these events out of your camp,and not pay tax ,that is not a good thing,that is not a American thing.If you want to get into the game get into the game bring it on,do so on a fair playing field be a American pay your fair share,O you dont have to you changed a Amendment.What that is teaching me is the scouts are cheating when I was a scout if they showed me how to cheat I may not be a videoboater at 44 years old.Way to bo scouts be all you can be.

  15. This is garbage folks. This is unfair competition to the existing high adventure resorts already in the area. A neighboring company even has a concert venue. As far as sharing the property with locals, that’s silly and simply isn’t true. This article didn’t mention they are already recruiting to train rafting guides. I hope the residents and business owners will not just fight back but also boycott any and all events held there. The SBR had railroaded this amendment onto the ballot and it’s just wrong.

  16. From what I see here from supporters of the SBR and BSA this is essentially a military installment. The BSA has a sordid history of being given gifts of land and labor and selling them for profit. Will LGBT groups be welcome? I would love to hear the answer to that because future “leaders of the nation” should treat everyone as equal.

  17. BSA will continue to hide under its non-profit status to not only continue to discriminate against individuals but not pay their fair share of taxes. I seriously wonder if these “events & concerts” will fall under the boys scouts mission and codes. As someone quoted above…

    Per their own policy from the Guide to Safe Scouting, section IV:

    “It is the policy of the Boy Scouts of America that the use of alcoholic beverages and controlled substances is not permitted at encampments or activities on property owned and/or operated by the Boy Scouts of America, or at any activity involving participation of youth members.”

    Yeah, don’t bet on it. Who goes to a concert or event where there is no alcohol sold.

    Compromising your principals and what you say your stand for, just watch and see.

  18. I am a Fayette County resident and I live whithin earshot and view of the Summit. I saw the fireworks and plane flyovers from the bathroom window of my home during the Jamboree while I was cleansing my colon. I also nearly got killed several times by drivers with out-of-state tags who forgot how to follow traffic laws on the nearby highways.

    I can honestly say that the only reason that this amendment passed was that as usual, the voters in WV are incredibly uninformed and they refuse to vote with their best interests at heart. Most people had no idea what they were voting for and the amendment was poorly worded. Local papers explained the Amendment as: If you want the X-games or a large concert here, vote Yes. Of course, people voted for it.

    Our state is one of the poorest in the nation because we continue to award subsidies and tax breaks to the extractive industries and those who spend (a minimum of) $100 million here. The local rafting industry, which is our livelihood and the center of our local economy, has been on an economic downturn since the mid-90s. The few rafting companies left are all tax payers. Perhaps now we can pass an amendment that exempts the rafting companies from paying property taxes? Oh wait, none of them have spent $100 million!

    Our state lost $5 million in property taxes on Amendment One. The BSA could easily afford to pay that every year since that would all be covered by private donations. Why should the state legislature change the constitution to reward the rich with unnecessary tax breaks? Because that is what we do here. Pathetic!

    • You neglect the fact that BSA and The Summit were already exempt from property taxes whether the amendment passed or didn’t.

      As a non-profit, that would be the case in any state. All the amendment did was allow occaisional additional use of the property to help with it’s maintenance and to attract more people to the area.

  19. BSA, shame on you. This was nothing but an underhanded way to sneak in the back door and not pay taxes on for-profit revenue. You already have non-profit, tax-exempt status on any activities you do that involve scouting. If you feel justified in the idea of gaining revenue from non-scouting related activities, why would you need to amend the state constitution, instead of applying for an exemption from Fayette County? And the fact that Fayette County (the only county that would be significantly affected by it) voted down this amendment, while the rest of the state (largely unaffected by SBR) upheld it, speaks volumes. This reeks of corruption, with a whiff of sulfur. Shame.

  20. Many of you grasp the concept of why the BSA needs the exemption. However, there are many more negative and non-understanding people that have responded in this blog. Let me try to redirect your attention and help you understand why this is necessary.

    1) EVERY non-profit corporation is struggling with our current State of economy. Donors are not necessarily able to give the funds needed to keep these organizations running. It cost BSA 100’s of Millions to to develop that property and will take more money to continue to develop and maintain the cost to run that facility.
    2) Boy Scouts existing property tax exemption would only be valid if the facility was used delivering the Scouting program to Boy Scouts, Venturers, etc.
    3) The Amended Law allows Boy Scouts to use the facility to be utilized for other Non-Scouting events, such as: XGames, Concerts, Sporting Events-Mountain Biking, Skateboarding, etc. during their off season without losing their Property Tax Exemption
    4) This will bring visitors to the local community bringing revenue to their economy by utilizing hotels, restaruants, and other venues in the community….including tax dollars! And yes, it will help BSA pay for developing that facility which many people will be able to enjoy!

    Therefore, you people that said:
    …it’s all about the money…YES, money is essential to pay for the facility that was developed for SCOUTS to use and have an OUTSTANDING program delievered. Boy Scouts Corporate office develops all programs rolled out to the Councils for them to deliver to their Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Sea Scout, Venturing Crew units, as well as, training tools for Unit Leaders! This includes research, development, writing literature for merit badges, etc. Without money, none of this would be possible. These programs help us make the develop the youth of today into future leaders tomorrow with skills they learned in the Scouting program! So YES, money is necessary and all Non-Profits have to look for ways to continue to provide the BEST they have to offer and how to accomplish that goal in todays society.

    …as far as concerts go…no one ever said they would have a concert at a time when scouts would be there or that alcohol woud be served there…those are your own projections. They would not be using the facility for a Non-Scouting event during a time period when they had Scouts having summer camp or Jamboree’s there.

    Get all of your information from legally documented information before jumping to conclusions. Scouting is a GREAT program and there are a lot of good leaders at the Corporate level, as well as the Council & Volunteer levels. It takes a village to raise a child, so please be a POSTIVE influence to those you have the ability guide in the right direction!

    • Volunteer who cares,
      Simple, if you are going to use a facility for nonprofit reasons retain your nonprofit status for those specific reasons/events. If you are going to use your facility to create a profit then play by the same rules as everyone else. If your concern is that the scouts aren’t making enough out of the facility to maintain or upkeep it’s facility then it should still be able to hold fundraising events (concerts, x-games, mountain biking, etc) in it’s non profit status because the revenue gained from these events is going back to the upkeep of the facilities ergo still non profit. I believe what people have a problem with is that the BSA wants to retain it’s non profit status and make a PROFIT!!! Which should enrage anyone that believes in fair play. There are plenty of nonprofits that make money in the interest of maintaining there mission. Why the BSA would ever need to venture into for profit sector is beyond a lot of people’s comprehension.

  21. Anytime a local company silences the opinion of its “local” employees, you know something isn’t right. The only county you directly affect is united, against the bigotry and underhanded backdoor unethical treatment you gave it. Enjoy… Remember, remember the 5th of November!!

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