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We want an explanation!

March 6, 2013

 

The TOT remitting, fine, and late-fee paying members of the Mammoth Lakes Lodging Association want an explanation! 

At last Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, you heard the first of what will no doubt be many appeals from homeowners who have been renting their single family home out illegally.

Town staff had prepared the case in accordance with the procedures that you signed off on. The case was reviewed by the town attorney and appeared to all to be a slam-dunk case for the ridiculously money-strapped town.

Then you all rolled over and waived the homeowner’s $7,000-plus fines. Why? 

May we remind you that over two years ago, the council asked members of the Mammoth Lakes Lodging Association to help amend the TOT ordinance and help with the TOT enforcement effort because, let’s be honest, the town staff could not seem to do this themselves.

Hundreds of volunteer hours by lodging members went into this effort, not to mention all the paid time spent by town staff and the town attorney. 

The result of this effort was a much-improved TOT ordinance and a structure that enabled town staff to notice those in violation of the TOT ordinance and a fine/collection structure to secure the revenues due to the town.

This entire process was reviewed by all of you and the town attorney, and was signed off by the council. Done. Lots of hard work done. Moving in the right direction, done. 

Then last week happened.

To anyone in the audience, the case presented by the homeowners was circumstantial at best.

They claimed to have called “the town” at some unspecified time in the past and were told that “they did not have to pay tax” since they owned a single-family home.

I do not know these folks and do not intend to assassinate their character. I merely point out that there were no names or dates given, no paper trail, nothing.

I find it a little hard to believe that this one statement by the homeowner could justify waiving their penalties and thus destroying so many hours of work put in by town staff. So why?

The members of the Lodging Association play by all the rules of the TOT ordinance. We purchase and renew our business licenses.

We remit the TOT we collect from our visitors that pays for so much (62 percent) of the town’s infrastructure.

We pay fines if TOT is one day late. We continue to be audited by the town. So, why do you let someone off the hook who profited by renting their home illegally by just asking them to pay back taxes with no fines or penalties?

Why, in a time when the town is so strapped financially, did you just toss $7,000 into the trash?

What message does this action send to all those who have similar TOT cases pending. What precedent have you set and WHY?

We deserve an explanation!

Finally, thank you to Michael Raimondo and Mayor Matthew Lehman for doing the right thing by voting to charge the entire fee to the homeowner. Nice to see that you guys get it.

John Morris, Chairman

Mammoth Lakes Lodging Association

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