By Deb Murphy

Mammoth Lakes dealt with short-term rentals with Measure Z last year, maintaining a status quo where zoning determined where homes could be rented out to tourists. Now the issue has popped up in Inyo as a result of complaints, particularly in Aspendell, of short-term renters mucking up the community ethos.

Planning Department’s Cathreen Richards gave the Supervisors some options at Tuesday’s meeting: make existing codes not allowing rentals for less than 30 days more clear; allow short-term rentals as a conditional use permit; allow room rentals in occupied homes; restrict in R-1 zones or re-zone to allow.

Realtors Jennifer Castaneda and Andrea Kramer both urged the Board to consider measures that would allow short-term rentals. “There is a need,” said Castaneda. “Yes, there are issues but existing ordinances take care of those.”

Collection of Transient Occupancy Taxes is an issue. One of the biggest on-line rental sites, Airbnb is said to collect the tax and forward to counties but only after being sued. Mammoth ran into those issues earlier this summer.

The Assessor’s Office staff explained the volume of paperwork required to establish a residence as a business when everything in the home is considered business equipment.

Staff was directed to come back with more information on the available options. Supervisor Mark Tillemans wanted to see a streamlined way for the Assessor’s Office to deal with the rentals.

“This comes down to how we look at our neighborhoods,” said Supervisor Matt Kingsley.

Economic Impacts from De-Fishing National Park Lakes and Amphibian Critical Habitat Ruling

The County’s Planning Department staff once again had the unhappy task of telling the Supervisors their economic impact concerns were dismissed, first by the National Park Service then by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Planner Michael Draper went over the final environmental documents from the NPS on restoration of native species, which basically removes non-native fish from high elevation lakes. The service’s assessment was there would be no significant recreational impact and, therefore, no negative economic impact for the County.

The final decision on critical habitat for three species of amphibians did not address the County’s concerns. “There are no restrictions on existing uses (in the final decision),” Supervisor Dan Totheroh said. “So, the economic impacts aren’t know.” Impact assessments would be done when future projects, or permits, are evaluated, he explained.

But Supervisors Kingsley and Rick Pucci weren’t encouraged. Pucci noted the additional step in renewing grazing permits required by the critical habitat designation would lengthen an already long process. Kingsley admitted the County’s success rate in getting land management agencies to seriously consider economic impacts was zero but wanted to keep up the pressure.

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