Guest Column: IVGID property owners need to be the priority
October 15, 2014
Shelia Leijon, in her recent campaign ad, claims she knew when she moved here she'd pay a Recreation Fee to subsidize our "exclusive amenities."
My recollection is that IVGID always insisted its venues were profitable; few realized the fee was a subsidy until a few years ago when my husband, Aaron Katz, shed some light on IVGID's money losing operations.
Realistically, we have no exclusive amenities. Except for our beaches, our venues are open to everyone (as IVGID's new website URL announces to the world, this is "Your Tahoe Place"). Even our once "exclusive" beaches are now overrun with tourists. The Burnt Cedar pool is just as crowded as the public pool where I taught swimming in a middle class neighborhood in Philadelphia.
Exclusivity is a thing of the past, as evidenced by the crowded conditions and unavailability, not just at the beaches, but many of our other venues: Diamond Peak during holiday periods and weekends during the ski season; the field we used to have for a dog park, because it's been rented out by Hyatt customers to erect a huge tent for a conference; the parking lot at Aspen Grove (remember the drifting event?); golf courses that have so many tournaments, the most desirable tee times have often been blocked by large outside groups; playing fields that are used by a private college for a pittance that nowhere near covers the cost to maintain them.
Local property owners were willing to pay more for less crowding and for attractive amenities they could actually use, but people I know are, for the most part, adamantly opposed to paying for amenities geared primarily toward tourists or groups that exclude us and don't even cover our costs.
During the last decade the Rec Fee soared as IVGID stepped up its capital improvements and marketing efforts. But now that tourist use is negatively affecting owners' and residents' ability to enjoy our amenities, (and we still don't get any return on our years of investments), the "exclusivity" justification for assessing this fee no longer exists. During the Ordinance 7 community meetings, we heard from homeowners who lamented the loss of "exclusivity." Real estate agents claimed that they sell "exclusivity."
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IVGID tries to convince us that our money is being well spent, that just having the amenities keeps up our real estate values. But when these amenities become overcrowded and unavailable for our use, they are a negative. IVGID is a recreation and utility district, not a tourist authority. It shouldn't be using fees collected from homeowners allegedly for our recreational needs, to finance tourist attractions.
Many people I've talked to moved here because it was a true residential community and they wanted to live where there were fewer tourists and nicer recreational amenities than those supported by property taxes alone. The Rec Fee was supposed to enable the district to build resort like facilities without the need to attract huge throngs of tourists. Limited tourist use was accepted as a way to defray some of the cost of these beautiful facilities and venues. It was considered a reasonable trade-off.
But the increased effort to promote tourism negatively affects our quality of life. Except perhaps for more recently built assets, like the Chateau and the Diamond Peak Skier Services building (neither of which resulted in those venues actually turning a profit), our amenities with their limited parking and modest size, were not designed for large scale tourism; they were supposed to be "community" assets. If IVGID didn't spend so much trying to build and market tourist attractions and focused instead on being what it's supposed to be, maybe the Rec Fee would actually go down as promised when bonds are repaid, and at least the feeling of exclusivity would be restored.
Judith Miller is an Incline Village resident.
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