Mammoth Town Council hears protests against TBID formation
Oh yeah, the TBID. They talked about that on Wednesday night (June 5), didn’t they?
In the shadow of MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory’s bombshell announcement that a new person would be running the Ski Area within a few weeks (click here for story), there was that small matter of a public hearing at Mammoth Town Council’s regular meeting in Suite Z to discuss the proposed $4.7 million TBID (Tourism Business Improvement District).
And the lingering image I have of the meeting is of a dazed Rhonda Duggan, Marketing Director for Sierra Nevada Resort, standing at the podium, speechless, presumably because she had not expected to hear such vocal opposition to the TBID.
It’s safe to say there were a few angry folks in the audience, though the discussion Wednesday was notably civil.
The basic stats
Area businesses are being asked to consider imposing a fee upon themselves for sales related to lift tickets, lodging, restaurants and retail.
The fee (tax) is 2% for lift tickets, 1% for lodging and 1.5% for restaurants and retail that do more than $150,000 in gross annual sales.
Other businesses that don’t meet the sales threshold would pay a flat $500 annual fee.
On Wednesday night, Mammoth Lakes Tourism’s John Urdi said that of the top 68 revenue generating businesses in Town, which account for 81% of the total business in Mammoth, that 43 of those businesses voted in support of the TBID.
Of the 25 who didn’t vote in support, 11 are affiliated with national chains.
Urdi maintained that even if Mammoth Mountain hadn’t voted, “we’d still be over 50%” [among the remaining businesses that did].
Urdi said 798 businesses are subject to the BID. 625 of those businesses combined account for less than one-half of one percent (example: a condo which may rent a few nights a year).
TBID consultant John Lambeth said Town Council would have the option of reducing assessments on the “lower end” at the final hearing where adoption is considered.
The TBID is expected to raise $4.7 million annually.
Of that, $2.2 million has been tentatively designated for commercial airline subsidies, with $2.5 million planned to go towards direct marketing.
Urdi said Mammoth Lakes Tourism currently has a $2.1 million operating budget, with about $1 million of that spent on direct marketing.
Outgoing MMSA Chief Marketing Officer Howard Pickett said that with Southern California being the most expensive media market in the country, and “everyone” [competitors] being in that market, that the potential creation of added marketing dollars is “a small step in the right direction.”
An arms race is exactly what Crystal Crag Lodge Owner Derek Johnson warned Council about on Wednesday.
Johnson said he recently met with Rusty Gregory for about 90 minutes and the one thing both men could agree on is that “this [TBID] is risky.”
Johnson urged Council, as the “grown-ups on the playground,” to put a halt to the TBID formation.
Among those who testified against the TBID on Wednesday included Glenn Taylor and Susan Baumgard of Perry’s Italian Cafe, Brian Ellison of Brian’s Bicycles, Gene Martin of Mammoth Vac and Sew and Julie Fontaine.
There were also approximately 15 letters of protest entered into the record.
Taylor said he hasn’t seen a half percent increase in business at his restaurant since the reestablishment of commercial air service and said in opposition to increased taxes that “this place is unaffordable as it is.”
He also ripped Gregory for speaking and then leaving the meeting before further public comment. “The one who said he should be here to listen was the first one out the door,” said Taylor.
Gene Martin said business would grow and people would come back if the people waiting on them were paid enough to care (which is apparently more than $8/hour).
Among those who spoke in favor were Phil Hertzog of Mammoth Outdoor Sports, Mall Owner Paul Rudder, Gomez’s Owners Michael Ledesma and Russ Squier and Colin Fernie of Black Tie Ski Rentals.
Hertzog pointed out that among those who attend Southern California ski shows, Mammoth is considered the home mountain for just 28% of them – that number used to be more than 50. Hertzog feels increased marketing will help arrest that decline.
Council will make a final decision on whether to approve formation of the TBID at its July 3 meeting.
In other news … Town Council did not approve a ban on skateboarding, which means I won’t get treated to the sight of Police Chief Dan Watson trying to run down Marty McFly … The Clocktower Cellar celebrated its 20th anniversary last week … as an FYI, the Town just paid Airport Consultant Reinhard Brandley approx. $107,000 for the new airport layout plan. I wish I were a 90-year old man getting a $107,000 check. That’s a lot of Viagra … Paul Rudder pointed out that commercial office space rents for the same price now as it did 32 years ago, at $1.25/foot … the Town doesn’t plan on convening its code compliance task force ‘til September, so the best summer ever (of tent sales) is on!!! … Lt. John Mair (a class act) is retiring after 17 years with the MLPD.