Fight grows against ice rink
The South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association Board of Directors on Thursday called on its members to send a loud message to the City Council that the current room tax formula should not be adjusted.
“We’re taking a firm stance with the (South Lake Tahoe) Chamber of Commerce,” association President Pete Mac Roberts said. “We oppose any effort to direct those (transient occupancy tax) funds anywhere but to advertising and promotions.
“Tourism is why South Lake Tahoe is here. We’ve got to keep promoting that.”
The board encouraged its members to sign and deliver a letter outlining their concerns to all council members and to show up at the City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m.
The council agenda includes a report from the budget subcommittee on the room tax issue.
The lodging stance came in response to recent City Council discussions that a portion of the room tax traditionally used for tourism promotions – 2 percent of the 10 percent tax – might be tapped into for construction and maintenance of an ice skating rink.
“We all want an ice rink,” Mac Roberts said. “The dispute is where the funding comes from.”
In a community recreational needs survey, the ice rink was third behind ball fields and bike trails. The South Tahoe Alliance for Recreation, or STAR, supports a special use tax measure for the June 2000 election to raise funds for recreational development.
Some city officials want to see an ice rink in operation faster than could be accomplished through a ballot measure and have eyed the promotional room tax as a possible source of funding.
City Councilwoman Brooke Laine said on Thursday afternoon that she supports using the 2 percent for tourism promotions but believes recreation should be part of that.
“I strongly believe promotion of recreation meets that goal,” Laine said.
Recreational facilities “add to the enjoyment of a visitor. That’s return tourism and that is a form of promotion.”
Laine is on the budget subcommittee and hopes the Tuesday meeting results in a “philosophical discussion” with the council on what constitutes promotions.
City Councilman Tom Davis, who represents the city on the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Board of Directors, said “Personally, I think the STAR proposal makes sense.”
However, he said, the City Council should strive to find a “resolution, solution, or compromise with those the action affects” rather than being “confrontational.”
During the lodging discussion, the members expressed concerns that diverting room taxes from promotions to recreation now could derail recent economic growth.
“It’s great to see we’ve turned the corner again after seven (economic) drought years,” Mac Roberts said following a LTVA report demonstrating growth in promotions and the economy.
“There are still ups and downs but, overall, it’s a good economic incline. That’s due to promotions.”
Chamber Executive Director Duane Wallace, whose organization has made recreation its No.1 priority for the coming year, compared the room tax issue to a car.
“The economic engine has been sputtering for seven or eight years,” he said. “Now that it’s working, now someone’s taking the wheel and yanking us in another direction.
“The (chamber) board feels uncomfortable pitting ourselves against an ice rink. But there needs to be a good alternate plan to changing the marketing mix before anyone jumps (for funding the ice rink).”
To demonstrate its support of the STAR plan for recreation, the lodging board approved an allocation of $2,500 toward a marketing survey planned by the community recreation committee.
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