Tourism Business Improvement District moves a step closer
A public meeting on the formation of the North Lake Tahoe Tourism Business Improvement District was held during Tuesday’s Placer County Board of Supervisors session, allowing for the community to voice its support and concerns on the establishment of the district.
The district could generate approximately $6 million of locally controlled funds annually, according the report submitted to the county’s Board of Supervisors.
Funds would be primarily used for marketing, promotions, and special events. Other funding will be directed toward workforce housing, traffic mitigation, and other issues facing the North Tahoe area.
The proposed Tourism Business Improvement District would assess all lodging, restaurant, retail activities, and businesses located within it at a rate of up to 2%, depending on business type, size, and location.
The county would be responsible for collecting assessments. Funds will then be directed to the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, which has spearheaded efforts to form the district, in order to manage the tourism business improvement district’s programs, and will be locally controlled by a board representing the area’s businesses.
Forming a district
In December, a resolution of intention was completed and signed with support of business owners, who will pay more than 50% of the assessments proposed.
On Tuesday a public meeting was held as part of the process of forming the district, and on March 9 a final public hearing will be held where the board is expected to adopt a resolution on the formation of the district.
“Over the last 18 months, our organization has made extensive outreach to our business community,” said North Lake Tahoe Resort Association CEO Jeffrey Hentz. “That includes town hall meetings … emails, direct mail, phone, web, social media — every possible communication tool that is out there, we have utilized to make sure that the community understands the benefits of a tourism improvement district, and what it means for our business community.”
A proposed tourism business improvement district would allow for more locally controlled funding that could be used for high priority services like trash collection, which became a hot topic during the past summer as visitors flocked to Tahoe’s shores. Having an assessment that isn’t just on the lodging sector also allows for additional revenue to be captured from visitors who only spend a day in the area. Hentz indicated that day visitors are believed to make up roughly 41% of visits to the area.
“It’s not all overnight visitors,” he said. “It’s actually a huge percentage of day visitors — which taxes our community tremendously throughout the basin — will now be paying into this.”
Community weighs in
While there was a lot of support for the formation of the district, the proposal isn’t without naysayers.
During Tuesday’s meeting, several members of the community called in to voice concerns. They ranged from questions on the impact to businesses to whether a formation of the district places too much control in the hands of the resort association, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, and Northstar.
“This isn’t the NLTRA circling the wagons,” said Samir Tuma, North Lake Tahoe Resort Association director. “We will have various members of the community from different sectors.”
Tuma urged anyone in the community to apply to the various groups that will help govern the tourism business improvement district.
After the formation of the district, the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association will create an advisory committee comprised of seven to nine members with a majority being assessed business owners. There will also be three designated seats — one from the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows region, one from the Northstar region, and one from the Lakeshore region.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows President and COO Ron Cohen voiced his support for the formation of the district during the meeting, stating that he has been a part of the formation of business improvement districts at Mammoth, and most recently, the Squaw Alpine Transit Company.
“I’ve experienced these and found them to be very effective ways to deal with tourism communities,” said Cohen. “The money raised can really address important needs of the community.”
Tahoe City business owner Melissa Siig also gave support to the formation of the new district, stating it’s an opportunity for the community to gain greater control in the way funds are used.
“These allow for the resort association to advocate for our local business community in a much stronger way, and give more Tahoe businesses a more independent voice,” said Siig, who operates Tahoe Tap Haus and Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema. “Best of all is we get to decide where those funds are spent, and who knows what a community needs better than the people who live and work there … this is more local control, more money spent on projects that are important to TBID members. The TBID offers opportunity to regain control of our future and create solutions to some of our biggest problems. In my 20 years in Tahoe, this is the first time I have seen Placer County offer North Tahoe a chance for some independence. Let’s not pass up this moment.”
The tourism business improvement district would also fund $3.15 million for marketing and visitor services — functions Placer County currently contracts with and allocates transient occupancy tax revenue to the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association to provide. Under the agreement with the county, those services would be provided by the tourism business improvement district, freeing up roughly $3.9 million in transient occupancy tax revenue to be used on other local priorities, primarily funding local housing and traffic mitigation projects. Additionally, the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association has identified a more than $200 million funding gap to implement priorities identified in the tourism master plan. The tourism business improvement district is expected to help narrow that gap while allowing the region to effectively compete with South Lake Tahoe and Truckee, which already have formed their own districts.
Once formed, the North Lake Tahoe Tourism Business Improvement District be in existence for five years, after which it will be up for renewal.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643.
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