On Wednesday, Mammoth Lakes Town Council voted to raise Town Council salaries from $735 per month to $1,029 per month. This means that, if council members have a little bit of patience, $300 more bucks, and a whole lot of luck, they might be able to afford a studio apartment in town.
Law prevents the council from raising Town Council salaries more than 5% each year. This specific raise covers the past eight years. In order for the salary increase to take effect, there has to have been a new election, and new council members have to be seated.
Salary increases are a good thing. Higher Town Council salaries lower the barrier to entry of being a council member. If the job pays a higher salary, more people can afford to do it. This leads to a more economically diverse Town Council that represents a better cross section of the community.
Mayor Pro Tem John Wentworth said he would like to find a way to compensate those serving on Town Council with something that is “commensurate with one of three jobs, or one of two jobs.”
Town Attorney Andrew Morris told the council that voters could raise the compensation past 5% yearly. The council would just have to ask voters, “Should councilmen be paid x amount?” Then, the people would vote. The council agreed that such a vote should be a conversation for a different time.
The Town Council also upheld $3,000 worth of administrative citations charged to local property owner Andrew Lazar. Lazar was accused of conducting transient rentals in an unpermitted area – in other words, he was renting out his home for stays fewer than 31 days long. This was against the zoning regulations of Lazar’s property.
The violation was discovered on Vrbo.com, where Lazar had posted an advertisement for a rental that could be rented for fewer than 31 days at a time. The initial citation cost him $1,000. Two more $1,000 citations were sent to Lazar for continuing to advertise the property transiently before correcting his advertisement.
There is a setting on Vrbo.com that hides your property from people looking for transient rentals that a property owner can enable. Lazar, who wished to appeal the citations, stated that he did not know this setting existed. As soon as he was notified of the setting’s existence, he changed the advertisement. He also told the council that his advertisement always stated that the property could only be rented for 31 days or more.
The council had little sympathy for Lazar, who has had run-ins with the town before. In 2012, Lazar paid the Town $8,291.15 in transient occupancy tax (TOT), penalties, and enforcement charges after his property was discovered online offering transient rentals.
In 2018, Lazar’s property again was found being advertised online for transient rentals. That one cost him $43,893.75.
In March 2021, it was the same story. Property found online. Transient rentals. $152,442.02 charge.
Councilmember Bill Sauser told Lazar he wanted to enforce his current case to show that “those who flout the rules” will pay the price. After Mayor Lynda Salcido told Lazar that the council has been very consistent in enforcing cases like these – and that the settings were his responsibility – Lazar thanked the council, turned, and left. He came back ten seconds later to grab his jacket from his seat. It was then that the council put Lazar’s case to a vote. The decision to uphold the citations was unanimous.
The council also adopted an updated Housing Impact Mitigation Fee Schedule. Impact fees are meant to cover the cost that new developments inflict upon public infrastructure when they are constructed. Mammoth Lakes updates their impact fees each year to reflect the California Construction Cost Index, or CCCI, which represents the cost of construction. This includes things like construction materials, construction equipment, and wages paid to construction workers.
In 2021, the CCCI increased to 13.4%. Subsequently, the town increased their Development Impact Fees by 13.4%. This is reflected in the new fee schedule, which, in layman’s terms, is just a list of fees. The new schedule puts the Development Impact Fee for single family homes and multi-family units at $7,280 per unit. The Development Impact Fee for a single motel or hotel room will be $4,854. Retail locations, restaurants, offices, and service uses (banks, day care centers, maintenance services, etc) : $2.67 per gross square foot. The fee imposed on manufacturing or recycling facilities: $1.33 per gross square foot.