Council lets chamber keep lease for now |

Council lets chamber keep lease for now

Susan Wood

South Lake Tahoe city leaders held off Tuesday on giving a politically charged chamber, whichever one, a six-month termination notice on the building used as its office and visitors center. But they left the door open to revisit the lease agreement down the road if they don’t like what they see.

“I haven’t heard anything personally to make us terminate the lease,” Mayor Hal Cole summarized.

But that’s for now in the world of politics on the South Shore.

After almost two hours of audience pleas to maintain or cancel the lease at 3066 Lake Tahoe Blvd., the 4-1 negative vote failed on Councilman John Upton’s motion to give notice to cancel the lease with conceivably the merged chamber. Most spoke in favor of allowing the joint chamber to follow through with its plan.

But Upton had harsh words for the joint chamber, which encompasses the coming together of the South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Douglas chambers effective Nov. 1.

“Doing nothing forecloses options. The point in putting the 180-day notice out there is to put everybody on the clock with their proposals,” he said.

Upton, a longtime supporter of the chamber, has been ruffled like others by the merged chamber in respect to a perceived Nevada dominance.

“There is a fracture in this business community that makes the (Tourism Promotion Business Improvement District) seem like a minor skirmish,” he said. The now-defunct TPBID, which involved a citywide business assessment, created a divisive stir in the community.

He called the merger a “destruction of two organizations” that’s created a “wall of distrust” – especially since a disgruntled offshoot is trying to form its own. In the end, the community may have two chambers after all. Both sides agree to let the chips fall where they will.

With the joint chamber’s name pulled off the city budget’s marketing subsidy line item, insurance agent Bob Attinger’s new South Lake-based group saw an opportunity to wedge into the building leased to the South Lake Tahoe Chamber for 20 years.

A new lease was signed last April, but with the name change, the joint chamber will need to notify the city of the party who will operate the building. City leaders also asked for a written proposal from its occupant on a planned remodel.

Pro joint chamber representatives such as Carl Ribaudo reminded the council to keep a level head in a region known to have a resistance to change. The South Lake Tahoe Chamber president took issue with the formation of the joint chamber, referred to as the Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce South Shore, being a characterized as a “Nevada takeover.”

“I don’t see the state line,” Ribaudo said, adding discussion should be dedicated to the “real issues” facing the South Shore economy such as driving retail sales – not how many chambers should operate.

And the joint chamber’s new Executive Director Betty Gorman, who started her job two weeks ago, said she’s been sharing ideas, trying to mend fences and focusing on helping small business.

The joint chamber has a larger interest in the California building that goes way beyond a satellite office for its main headquarters due to go in at Edgewood Village off Kingsbury Grade next month. The merged chamber of commerce plans to upgrade the building to make it more presentable as a visitor center, one of a few the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority has been assigned to run under the direction of longtime LTVA sales director Sue Barton.

LTVA’s building on Ski Run Boulevard is expected to close Nov. 17. Those proceeds are dedicated toward the remodeling of the building in question.

Whatever chamber, council candidate Bill Crawford urged the panel to not give away the building at its current rate of $1 a year.

“The city should be trying to get every penny it can on people using its facilities,” he said.

Councilwoman Kathay Lovell, who’s running again for her seat, agreed the city may want to charge rent. And while helping to spearhead the 56-acre project that affects that area, Lovell hinted the matter is “going to come back.”

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