Business district sees opposition from grocers
The diverse opposition to the proposed Business Improvement District for tourism marketing is gaining steam – with an estimated 1,000 signatures gathered against it, two major local grocers writing their letters of protest and a possible legal challenge brewing.
City Clerk Susan Alessi reported 150 letters of protest have been submitted.
“From a fiscal perspective, it didn’t make sense to us,” Raley’s spokeswoman Nicole Townsend said Tuesday. She announced the corporate office submitted its letter of protest on behalf of the two South Lake Tahoe stores last week.
Albertsons management also confirmed it plans to submit its letter.
Safeway was unable to say how it would side on the proposal, which requires a letter written in protest. Per state law, those in favor do not need to take action.
Safeway Store Manager Tom Nobriega said he signed a petition rejecting the BID.
“I think as a citizen it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. We’re taxed enough,” he said.
The BID, which will have 4,800 business owners in it if approved, is designed to earmark $326,000 in an individual annual range – as low as $30 and as high as $3,000 – to the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce for tourism marketing. Many people have expressed being in favor of tourism marketing to some degree on this divisive issue.
If it’s approved by the City Council Jan. 4, some people in the opposing group including Bijou Furniture owner Dick Van Buskirk have pledged to hire South Lake Tahoe attorney Dale Sare about legally challenging the city over the resolution that spurred the BID.
The belief is the legal means would not be used if the city abandons the idea.
“There are several shortcomings,” Sare said Tuesday. “Many people have approached me.”
Sare cited the fee and voting structure, as well as the clarity of the city document that formulated the plan and the exemption of lodging establishments as reasons he believes the opposition has a case. The final decision about retaining him has not yet been made.
There’s an issue with the counting of the opposition votes, he noted.
Because of tax disclosure issues basing the degree of votes on annual gross revenues, Sare said he may object to “the counting and weighing behind closed doors.”
Sare added the opposition has a huge sticking point with the exemption of motels, hotels and vacation home rentals until November 2006. That is when the $1.50 added transient occupancy tax was to expire. The intention has been for the lodging community to continue collecting the tax from its guests for the city. The amount equates to $1.2 million annually.
“This doesn’t benefit small business people,” said Bobbi Cole, who owns Alpine Rentals.
Cole, who has run a business in Tahoe for 28 years, takes issue with yet another proposal she sees as squeezing the business person.
She also objects to Nevada business interests making these types of decisions for California company owners. Some casino managers serve on boards such as the LTVA and TDVA.
Cole said she would be more inclined to be in favor of a business district that develops the infrastructure of the town.
“I think the LTVA gets enough money,” she said.
If approved, a BID board of directors would be appointed by the city, which has served as the conduit for the two marketing groups since about $500,000 in funds were taken away in massive budget cuts.
The BID would be evaluated on an annual basis.
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at email@example.com