INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — When Jim Hammerel voted to change IVGID’s recreation pass ordinance and allow property owners to dole out picture passes to anyone, he did so because the law is outdated and the district’s family tree has been “nearly impossible to enforce.”
“I learned (from staff) that quite a few residents had found ways to skirt the family tree restriction in order to grant venue access to those they consider family, even though they were not. I learned that our residents value the exclusive nature of our beaches,” the Incline Village General Improvement District trustee said this week. “Armed with that knowledge, I feel confident that the changes … will help us provide clarity to an otherwise confusing ordinance, give value to our homeowners by giving them a choice on how they distribute the recreation privileges they’ve purchased … and encourage venue usage by residents who may have been excluded from having a picture pass in the past.”
Hammerel and Joe Wolfe, Bruce Simonian and Jim Smith voted in favor of eliminating the family tree, among other changes to Ordinance 7, on March 26. The changes go into effect May 15.
Trustee Bill Devine said he voted against because he didn’t feel he had a strong sense of what the community wanted — a feeling that’s grown the past few weeks.
“People are almost universally against it … I have not received a single email or heard from a single person who’s said that’s what we should have done,” Devine said Tuesday, adding that he’s received 25 or more calls or emails daily since March 26. “Other issues … you see them die off after 2-3 days, but I have not seen any dying off.”
Among those voicing feedback is Troy Browning, a Realtor with Dickson Realty who’s owned a vacation home in Incline the past 10 years. He said the board’s decision to kill the family tree “goes against what community is asking for.”
“I’ve heard (staff) say it will increase the value of our properties — but that’s not the case,” he said Wednesday. “Our value increases when there’s exclusivity of the benefits to Incline Village property owners, but by diluting the product, we’re not getting more value.”
The way Ordinance 7 works, property owners — whether of single-family homes, timeshares commercial buildings, hotels, etc. — get five passes for paying the annual recreation fee (currently $830 per parcel).
Those five can be a combination of picture passes or punch cards, which offer different levels of recreation benefits in relation to free or reduced-price access to district venues like the Tennis Center and golf courses. Property owners also can buy “unlimited additional” passes, according to an IVGID statement, for $166 apiece.
Previously, those original five passes and any subsequent ones could only be supplied “within the parcel owner’s family tree,” according to IVGID.
The changes would allow a property owner to decide among anyone — including non-family members and non-IVGID residents — who receives not only that parcel’s five passes, but any others bought.
Another change is for no expiration date to exist for an adult picture pass for parcel holders who have no change in ownership. Previously, cards expired every five years.
These adjustments have people like Browning critical of the board’s decision, considering that even though IVGID says the previous law allows for “unlimited” extra pass buys, the existence of a family tree — which identifies 32 blood-relative classifications — actually limits that amount.
Incline resident Pam Miller agreed, saying IVGID is “giving away the store” if the changes are adopted.
“By (a parcel owner) buying a photo ID, a Bay Area ski bum can ski at Diamond Peak as a resident for $25 any day of the week,” she said Wednesday. “And since the pass never expires, this privilege is good for a lifetime. Compare that to the $114 lift ticket at Northstar. Apparently, we need to make our little ski resort more crowded too.”
Another concern among residents, according to published letters, is a potential for overcrowding at the beaches, the boundaries of which are controlled by a deed restriction.
That deed, included in IVGID’s purchase of Burnt Cedar, Incline, Ski and Hermit beaches, grants access to parcel owners within IVGID’s boundaries as of 1968, as well as their tenants and guests.
In an interview this week, IVGID Parks & Recreation Director Hal Paris said the updated ordinance, should it go through May 15, would add value to properties because it allows more personal choice for a property owner.
“It eliminates the government being the dictator of what defines a family,” he said.
Further, Paris said the district’s legal counsel has advised the changes adopted will have no impact on the beach deed.
“The deed says property owners and their tenants … and their guests. It’s very clear, and IVGID doesn’t define their guests,” Paris said.
Paris said he’s spoken at three different group settings since March 26, with one group having residents mostly against the changes, while “the other two seemed to be people of both persuasions.”
“There have been folks at the (recreation center)counter, your typical everyday resident, and many have been very much in favor,” he said. “At the same time, I’ve received numerous phone calls every day from people that are opposed to it, and emails too.”
One of the important things for residents to know is if the changes go through, the district will monitor where passes go, and if signatures are forged or if other evidence of wrongdoing exists, owners’ recreation privileges can be suspended or revoked.
“The owner still has to sign the application, approving he or she is giving this pass to this person,” Paris said. “Whoever that person is, the owner has to sign on that he’s assuming all the liabilities that go with that pass.”
Another way to measure potential trafficking of passes is by way of the board’s vote on April 9 — as part of setting rates for the 2013-14 budget — to charge $10,000 for each card bought after five additional ones at the $166 rate.
So far this fiscal year (which ends June 30), the district had sold an additional 108 picture passes, according to the district.
“If anyone were to decide it was advantageous to traffic IVGID picture passes, paying the $10,000 price tag would certainly raise some red flags internally,” Hammerel said. “The $10,000 cost was intended to create internal controls that would all but move from unlimited additional picture passes to a limit of five.”
Paris said the district and board also have been criticized for making changes without seeking public feedback.
“We didn’t try to hide anything, and we’ve been out in the public as much as anything else we’ve ever done,” he said.
According to the district, the IVGID board first publicly reviewed a basic overview of Ordinance 7 on July 31, 2013. Then on Dec. 10, trustees participated in a public workshop, directing staff to implement changes via a three-phase process over each of the next three years.
On Jan. 8, trustees approved setting a public hearing for March 26, which featured a handful of residents who voiced concerns about the current first round of changes.
While IVGID has followed the public process, Devine said the community might not have fully grasped the changes being offered.
“When you limit something to a family tree, the potential for abuse never really resonated with me … but then it became clear from staff that there were really no controls on it,” Devine said. “So there was a drive to put the decision in the hands of parcel holders … which seemed to open a can of worms. I don’t know if that really resonated with anybody, and through all the public meetings we had, we had never actually talked about that particular issue.”
Board chairman Joe Wolfe said a misunderstanding among residents of the law’s history dating back to its inception in 1987 also has led to confusion, which leads to rumors and false information.
Considering the feedback, Wolfe said he doesn’t expect all that was approved in March to be enacted by May 15.
“I suspect there will be limitations for the second set, the next five at $166, in terms of actual restraints and restrictions on who they can bring and what they can bring,” he said.
An agenda for the board’s April 30 meeting at The Chateau was not available as of press time Wednesday. It’s expected the changes to Ordinance 7 will be discussed.
Ordinance 7 was last amended on March 25, 1998.
“From stepchildren, nannies and caretakers, domestic partners and live-in boyfriends/girlfriends, investment partnerships, etc., it’s increasingly more common to label someone as ‘family’ even though they are not blood related,” Hammerel said. “… In addition, staff does not have the tools to police or enforce a family tree requirement. By having a rule that cannot be enforced, we make both sides of the counter look foolish.”