United front against TPRA policy
South Shore property management firms have joined the real estate industry and business community in putting up a formal, unified front in response to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s latest re-evaluation of how to treat vacation home rentals in the basin.
Many of the groups — which don’t always see eye-to-eye on issues — are unified now in their opposition to TRPA’s decision to enforce rules on new homes that are used as vacation rentals.
A joint letter from the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, the South Tahoe Association of Realtors and the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association was approved Thursday and has been sent to the regulatory agency. It essentially asks the TRPA to back off from its decision to enforce its stringent rules on vacation homes, which constitute a quarter of the transient occupancy tax collected in the city.
“We’d like to appeal to you to set our differences aside in joining the fight against the TRPA. We feel the debate should be brought back locally,” said Sharon Kerrigan, who represented the local Realtor association at the Lodging Association meeting.
“This is an issue better left to local governments. We understand that TRPA staff viewed this as an environmental issue. We respectively disagree,” the letter reads. “The definition of a single-family residence should be expanded to include the current uses of permanent and vacation home rentals that have heretofore been excluded and the plan area statements should be amended to allow the cities and counties to do what they are rightfully chartered by law to do. That is to administer local codes and enforcement on behalf of those who elected them. This will allow the TRPA to concentrate on the environment that they were chartered to protect.”
The agency had pledged more than a week ago that it would require homeowners seeking building permits to sign off that their homes would not be used for vacation home rentals. It has since said a letter to be drafted would go out instead, reminding those who have already been approved for improvements of the land-use laws on its books that prohibit new vacation home rentals in residential neighborhoods.
TRPA management said it has re-emphasized the rule in an attempt to address affordable housing issues and nuisance complaints.
“TRPA recognizes the great consternation this issue has brought to the surface. It is a hot topic in many resort communities and several communities have addressed this issue or are currently exploring options to resolve it,” Deputy Director Carl Hasty said.
Acting Executive Director Jerry Wells emphasized the willingness of the TRPA to take community input on this matter, specifically citing the local governments as the best to monitor the influx of homes and accompanying issues.
A TRPA Local Government Committee meeting slated for Sept. 5 at 9 a.m. at TRPA offices will take up the issue. The Governing Board will address it at a later date.
However, TRPA management echoed its earlier sentiment in citing the 1987 regional plan that limits the extent to which a single-family dwelling my be used for vacation rental purposes.
The owners of Tahoe Keys Resort, Lake Tahoe Accommodations and Accommodation Station — which book vacation home rentals as their bread and butter — appealed to the group to support their fight.
“We need your help now,” said Greta Hambsch, who runs the latter company.
So with minimal dissent, the lodging board voted to endorse that letter addressed to Wells.
“I believe the homeowner has the right to rent out their home,” said Jim Foff, who operates the Fantasy Inn. “But the problem I have is a lot of the properties don’t qualify as vacation home rentals.”
Therein lies a trend, critics contend, in which many second homeowners have bought up the structures and have gone underground on reporting the income, with a cash-strapped city losing out on motel-room tax revenue.
Tom Davis, who co-owns Tahoe Keys Resort and serves on the City Council, said the city is cracking down on those outlaw rentals. He cited one advertisement on the Internet that boasts of its avoidance of the taxes.
Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at email@example.com
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