Letter: Short-term rentals are the lifeblood of a resort community
A few thoughts on the Brown Ranch Project and City Council’s plan to increase short-term rental taxes to fund it.
First, as a former chair of the Mount Snow, Vermont Planning Commission and Selectboard (town council), it disturbs me when I hear a town council member say, “We (Steamboat) have a short-term rental problem.” During the nine years serving my community, I learned that short-term rentals are the lifeblood of any resort community. Your bedroom turnover rate determines the maximum number of skier visits, equipment rentals, dining experiences, labor demand and overall health of your community.
Second, as a former manager of market planning and forecasting for Xerox, I find it difficult to comprehend council members selecting a 9% STR rate increase with no analysis of our competition. Does it make any difference that other resort towns already have some competitive advantage over Steamboat in skiable terrain or easier travel access? Has anyone given any thought to how this massive tax increase would impact skier visits, especially during an economic downturn? Yes, travelers become more price sensitive during recessions.
Finally, as someone who has spent the last 35 years running an asset management company, has anyone on the council given any thought to how large a $400 million figure is for just this project’s infrastructure. That’s $175,000 per unit. What about constructing the units? With a total build out at over $1 billion, this is clearly a project that will need multiple forms of creative financing over an extended period of time. Will future cashflow from the project support bonding? What role will private developers play in this project and potential re-cooperation of infrastructure costs?
It does not sound to me like the city is anywhere near making a decision on moving forward with this project, let alone deciding to potentially damage the city’s business infrastructure with a massive 80% tax increase, on a project with so many unknowns. To put the financial burden on one tax will have significant unintended consequences for the community. While affordable housing is a worthy cause, bankrupting the city in the process is not a good option.
Paul D. Mendelsohn
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