“I don’t wanna end my career.”
That quote was from 2nd grader Quentin LeFrancois. The career he’s referring to is his swim career.
Quentin, whose mother Erin read his letter to Mammoth Lakes Town Council since the meeting ran past his bedtime, doesn’t want Mammoth Lakes Town Council to close Whitmore Pool.
He was just one of many persons Council heard from at its rescheduled Thursday night meeting as Council weighs how to deal with its current fiscal morasse.
Members of the public addressed Council about: preserving Whitmore, preserving Mammoth Lakes Housing, opening up residential neighborhoods to single family home rental and raising taxes, among other topics.
Members of the Mammoth Lakes Police Dept. were noticeably absent from the meeting and may be resigned to their fate. The proposal to reduce the number of MLPD’s sworn officers from 17 to 10 in July 2013 was not discussed Thursday.
One topic that is definitely heating up is the issue of single family home rentals in residential neighborhoods. Each side has its own website. The pro-rental site is www.mammothvhr.org. The pro-neighborhood site is www.mammothneighborhoods.com.
Both sides appear to be well-represented. The pro-rental site claims 192 people have signed its petition; the pro-neighborhoods site, which has not been up quite as long, has 160 signatures according to Cheryl Witherill.
Second homeowner Jeffrey Weinhuff, a home rental supporter, presented Council with a research paper detailing his findings.
Weinhuff said he spoke to seven people who work in finance departments at various peer resorts.
He said five of these people told him that single family housing stock. David Page, who founded the www.mammothvhr.org website agrees. In an interview earlier this week, he said the travel trend is toward VRBO.com and home rentals, and that this is a segment of the market underrepresented in Mammoth. Weinhuff claims the Town could see a $2 to $3 million increase in Transient Occupancy Tax collections if it legalizes home rentals.
Folks like Bill Cavanagh of Del Mar commented on the pro-rental site that they support the initiative. “We have children in school and have to visit on major holidays,” wrote Cavanagh. “It is very difficult to find a house during these crowded periods. We often go to Colorado, Utah or Tahoe due to the access to superior lodging.”
On the other side, Lanie Somers, interviewed earlier this week, said “We made a conscious community decision as outlined in the General Plan [to not allow nightly home rentals in residential neighborhoods].” Somers, who owns Mammoth Reservations, says she has homes in her rental stock from properties such as The Timbers and Stonegate and her current inventory does not rent to capacity. “The [current] economic engine is not big enough to drive the existing boat,” she said. “Legalizing home rentals and then dumping that extra capacity on the market will mean that new construction[will grind to a] halt,” she said.
Cheryl Witherill said she met with Page and was told that he supports home rentals only in “mountain resort areas.” He suggested these would be areas where there is already existing transient occupancy rentals (Canyon for example).
Page, full disclosure, owns a home in that area.
Witherill, in an interview earlier this week, borrowed a line from a friend who said something to this effect: If you were a homeowner in the Canyon area, this [suddenly legalizing home rentals] is the equivalent of going towards the American Dream of buying a home and investing in that ideal for 30 or 40 years … only to have the government go ahead and build a highway right next to it.
Gregg Martino questioned Weinhuff’s math, finding it hard to believe that all the folks who have goitten away with renting illegally will suddenly turn legal just because we ask.
On the mammothneighborhoods.com site, this is how Black Tie Ski Rentals owner Jeremy Goico weighed in: “I don’t see how the town feels this will raise more money since it does not accomplish bringing more visitors to town. It simply gives visitors more accommodation options which ultimately hurts the lodging community which I cannot support. Furthermore, single family neighborhoods should not have to deal with vacationers and tourists partying and making noise all night. I live on Manzanita next to a second home owner, and would not be pleased if vacationers and tourists were all of a sudden showing up there every weekend to party and vacation. We all need to work and make a living in this town and so there needs to be some sort of separation between locals and tourists.”
Witherill, Sandy Hogan and others urged Council to, at the very least, tread deliberately and set up a focus group to further study it.
Other comments of interest on Thursday night:
Kirk Stapp endorsed a 3% admissions (basically, lift ticket) tax as the best solution to raise revenue. Since he deems Mammoth Mountain as partially responsible for the Town’s airport litigation defeat, he reasons that MMSA shoukld pay a share of the burden. “The tax [amounts to] costs half a beer,” he said.
Local resident Ken Coleman, who has worked as a service sector employee in Mammoth for nine years, spoke in support of Mammoth Lakes Housing. With the help of MLH, Coleman just bought a place, and as he said, “It’s more than a dream come true because I never even dreamt it.”
MLH Executive Director Pam Hennarty did point out to Council that if current housing programs are not maintained, the Town would potentially be on the hook to repay grant funds its received (the same thorny predicament which plagues the Mammoth Ice Rink).
Due to deadline contraints, The Sheet left the meeting at 8:30 p.m.
The community conversation will be rejoined at the next Council meeting on November 7.
A few more tidbits …
The Southern Mono Hospital Board met Thursday to discuss current Board openings.
It turns out Mono County Supervisors, under a provision in the Election code, will appoint the three candidates (Dr. Maria King, Dr. Steve Swisher and Helen Shepherd) for the Board to fill the three openings in November.
There was no election because the number of seats available matched the number of candidates, a current trend of late (witness Town Councilmembers Michael Raimondo and Jo Bacon)