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Single-family home rentals

May 29, 2013

Once again, the issue of single-family home rentals landed in the lap of the Mammoth Lakes Town Council last week.

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area CEO Rusty Gregory popped in out of the blue and, during an otherwise innocuous workshop discussion about the 2013-14 budget, gave a forceful presentation on why Mammoth ought to have such rentals.

Practically no one saw this coming, except for the proponents of the scheme, who were in the Council Chambers (what a surprise) while the opponents, blissfully unaware that the topic was even under discussion, stayed away.

By our count, this was about the thousandth time the issue has been raised over the years. It is in higher relief this time because the town can’t seem to find its way out of its budget deficits.

Single-family home rentals would help provide a way out for that, say the proponents, recently joined by Gregory, and give visitors what they want.

Opponents will argue back, inevitably, that the town General Plan is specific, that it stipulates the neighborhoods will not be overrun, and on and on it goes.

We don’t have a position on this issue yet because we freely concede we have no idea what anybody is talking about.

If there was a voice of reason at the last go-around, it came from citizen activist Sandy Hogan.

Hogan argued (persuasively, we think), that a lot of legwork has to be done before an intelligent debate can begin.

First, exactly how many homes and neighborhoods are we talking about? Do they include townhomes, or just free-standing homes?

In this regard, we’re thinking of a street such as Holiday Vista Drive, which is a short dividing line between the so-called “Resort Corridor” occupied by the Summit Condominiums, and the single-family home-dominated “neighborhood” on the other side. It is very close to Eagle Lodge and the Eagle Express chairlift.

It’s not much of a neighborhood, actually. Most of the homes along that street are dark except for the ones renting illegally during the winter.

But then there are other neighborhoods, like the Knolls, or the Trails, that probably ought to be protected from an onslaught of winter visitors.

Or maybe not. We don’t know.

So which neighborhoods ought to be included? In this, the town itself has little to say, and would throw it into the hands of neighborhood associations.

We don’t even know how many single-family homes we have in Mammoth, and what they might generate in Transient Occupancy Tax if they were wide open for rental.

Indeed, what we don’t know could fill a book. That’s why we liked Hogan’s approach. 

Before taking on this issue, can we please get on the same page in terms of inventory, projected tax revenue, and which neighborhoods we’re discussing?

Are we really losing visitors to Breckenridge and South Lake Tahoe? If so, how many? Is the number really significant?

And you can hear us laughing all the way down the street when it comes to the discussion of “trophy homes.”  We don’t have any—certainly not like what the Utah resorts have, or Colorado, or Wyoming.

The reason is because the building lots in Mammoth are so small that the best we can do is build kinda-sorta trophy homes, if that.

We can’t wait for some research numbers to come in, if they ever do, so we all know what we’re talking about.

Until then, we expect more yammer-yammer on both sides, filled with sound and fury, signifying … nothing.

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