Good as Gold
I‘m writing this to clarify misconceptions in Sean Flavin’s letter to the editor in last week’s “Sheet,” concerning the new paved path which begins at the library.
The path is known as the “College Connector Path,” and connects the library to the college, the college to student housing, and then continues southeast and connects with the “Town Loop.” It is scheduled for completion by July 4. This path is a great example of our paved Town system that has evolved over many years, and involves no Town General Funds. General Funds, or “unrestricted funds,” are those at risk due to the settlement.
The funds used to construct the Connector Path have been a combination of Federal, State, and local grants restricted to transportation or recreation projects, and thus not subject to the settlement.
Our 1991Trails Master Plan, updated in 2011, envisioned an exceptional paved trail system for bicyclists, pedestrians, and other non-motorized uses. Segments of this system have evolved over the years because of our outstanding Public Works Department and their knowledge of grants and how to leverage that funding. With the input and assistance of other agencies, such as Cal-Trans, Mono County, and federal agencies such as the Forest Service, our Town trails system has blossomed, including the latest and most outstanding segment, the “Lake Mary Bike Path,” as it is popularly known. A future part of that paved path is now being surveyed and engineered, is completely federally-funded and is known as the “Lake George Connector.” Our 2011 Trails System Master Plan, including carryover projects from the original master plan, has soft-surface trails, paved trails, sidewalks, and other pedestrian improvements in it, and most if not all of these will be completed without use of General Fund dollars. Many of those are “connectors” to complete and enhance the Town Loop.Government funding is complex, even for those of us involved in it, but during our Town’s difficult days ahead paying down the settlement, we will continue to see improvements to our transportation system, including trails, thanks to Federal, State, and local funding such as Measure R and Measure U. I invite all interested citizens to our next Local Transportation Commission meeting on June 10, where we will have a workshop on Town and County priorities.
Ms. Hogan is a member of both the Local Transportation Commission and the Mammoth Lakes Trails System Coordinating Committee.
Cogitating on the acronyms
A few thoughts on two important issues, TBID and Single Family Home Rentals (SFRs):
TBID: How is something a self imposed assessment, and not a tax, when you vote against it, lose on the issue, and are subjected to paying money out of your business sales against your wishes? As a small business owner, there is always significant trepidation and concern over paying yet more fees and assessments to a community/government fund. Are we not taxed enough? How many fees, taxes, and assessments must a person or business bear?
More information and thought on the matter is required, as opined by Lunch in last week’s Sheet. In addition to the concerns raised there, it would be helpful to know what marketing has been done in the past and at what cost, what is being done now and at what cost, and what marketing we would like to do in the future and at what cost. It is difficult to reconcile the Federal government asking for more money, when it hasn’t proved that it can live within a budget, responsibly. Throwing more money at the problem isn’t always a solution. The same concern applies to all governments, local and otherwise.
Single Family Housing: Many legitimate concerns are raised when a non-resident, second homeowner is the moving force advocating for family home rentals, clearly. The recent support by MMSA and Mr. Demetriades, however, gives pause to consider the issue favorably, because both could potentially lose rental business should single family homes enter the market. Is our resort truly missing something in its rental inventory? Maybe there is a demand for a product that is not currently being served. Whatever the merits, considerably more information is needed to make an informed decision, as with the TBID issue.
Sandy Hogan rightly proposes an inventory of existing homes that can and cannot be rented legally. Truly, what is our inventory of homes that could potentially fill a void? Does anyone really know what we’re talking about? Also, what are other major resorts allowing and doing to serve this need, if any? It would be helpful to know what is available in Deer Valley and how the issue is handled there, that being one of the highest end resorts with the most pampered guests.
While deciding the issue, there’s a mandatory requirement or regulation that might be considered. If rentals are allowed, require the homeowners to rent the property through local, professional real estate and rental companies. Property owners might not be happy about paying commissions and fees, but that may be the price of doing business with their homes in our community — all businesses here are subject to local costs and fees — and such a regulation would serve as a compromise between advocates and their concerns on both sides of the issue.
A regulation of this kind could accomplish several important goals, assuring that the business of home rentals is organized, controlled and, well, business-like.
First, because local agencies would have an economic interest in the success of the property, they would likely assure that all maintenance, presentation and guest hospitality matters would be handled at the level of service expected of a large and high-end rental property, allaying at least one concern that has been raised.
Second, this would help to compensate for some of the business lost by our local agencies to the introduction of single family home rentals, another opposition concern.
Third, surrounding homeowners would have a local agent to contact regarding neighborhood issues that might arise. There will be professional boots on the ground to manage the properties, local residents taking care of local residents.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it would assure that TOT matters are handled properly and efficiently. There would be little need to track down individual homeowners who rent via the internet or by other means without any true connection to the local business community. TOT enforcement burdens could be eased considerably.
It appears as if our community decision-making process sometimes comes in two forms: There is this wild west, shoot-from-the-hip, half baked, dive-right-in approach. On the other hand, at times, there seems to be “paralysis by analysis.” The latter method may be a reaction to the former. Nonetheless, there is a balance to be had. The significant questions of TBID and single family home rentals require that balance, including a steady, moderate, but efficient and effective process to decide what is best.
And as a final thought, if the Town is truly concerned with raising TOT, a concerted, all out effort should be made to bring another major hotel brand to Mammoth Lakes. Real estate prices have bottomed out (but are beginning to rise), construction pricing is still competitive, and the overall economy is improving. Now is the time. Of course, this will require a review of DIF, but that’s another discussion for another day.