Dazed and confused by Town Council

mltc3_6_13Three members of the Mammoth Town Council hit a nerve when they waived fines and penalties for a couple who rented their Mammoth home illegally and failed to pay bed tax. Members of the lodging association voiced their deep unhappiness at Wednesday night’s Council meeting.

Lodging people thanked Councilmen Matthew Lehman and Michael Raimondo for voting against the motion to waive $7,000 in fines and penalties in the Transient Occupancy Tax appeal before them in February. Teri Stehlik said the Council’s vote put two and a half years of work on TOT enforcement “in reverse.” Cheryl Witherill pointed to the extraordinary efforts of the Lodging Association members to research TOT and to help the Town create enforcement strategies. She said, “We thought the Town Council was behind these efforts. Last week was a big disappointment.”

tomsmithTom Smith said of the Council waiver of fines, “To say we are disappointed and amazed is an understatement. It’s just baffling.” Chair of the Lodging Association, John Morris, said, “Many feel disillusioned and disenfranchised.” He pointed to the fact that bed tax pays for two-thirds of the Town’s operating funds.

The Council had voted that Kevin and Carolynn Cozen should pay $15,000 in TOT, but not $7,000 in fines. That was Rick Wood’s proposal. He spoke up Wednesday for the majority who excused the fines. He said the Council had clearly struck a nerve. Said Wood, “The extraordinary vitriol outnumbered all vile and vitriolic e-mails sent to me in the last 12 to 15 years.” Hit hard by the hate mail, Wood thanked those in public comment for being civil.

He pointed out that the Council acts as a judge and jury and not as a prosecutor on TOT appeals. He said the Council was bound by the evidence presented. Wood said, “The problem here was that we were effectively inexperienced in the process. There was no rebuttal evidence presented.” Wood said he didn’t like it that the couple was renting illegally, collecting TOT and not paying it. Wood said he had proposed a compromise – something between payment of taxes and fines and paying nothing. Said Wood, “We got the tax money.”

Wood also pointed out that he does not represent TOT violators as some had accused him. Said Wood, “I don’t have a secret motive.” He also said he doesn’t think the Council’s decision sets a precedent. He said they would consider appeals on a case by case basis. In the case of the Cozens, Wood said the Council “collected the tax and put an illegal renter out of business and learned about appeal hearings.”

Later in the meeting, the Council did not forgive Austria Hof’s penalty for paying TOT two days late. Joe Mueller explained the circumstances that he tried to pay taxes on December 31st, but the Town Offices and Post Office were closed. The Council stuck to the order that he should pay a $157 penalty.

 

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28 Responses to Dazed and confused by Town Council

  1. Sierra Fan March 7, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    Cop out!

     
  2. SierraFan March 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Seriously?? Inexperienced?? So who’s the prosecuting body? This sounds like a serious copout!! Trying to save face by doing what most attorney’s do. nuff said!

     
  3. Jeremiah March 8, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    Councilmember Wood, and the others who voted to forgive the penalty, are missing the point. This isn’t just a TOT issue, this is a case of a clear violation of zoning laws. Those laws are intended to protect the quality of life in our town’s single family neighborhoods and are easily understood and followed by the majority of honest residents and second homeowners.

    The Cozens were guilty of violating those laws, clean and simple. Councilmemeber Wood, who is an attorney, knows that one of the basic tenants of law is that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” No one denies that the Cozens rented their home, no one denies that they fraudulently collected TOT from their renters. Those are facts, and they should have been held to account for them.

    With that said, the misguidance of the Council’s decision just becomes more and more apparent. A simple Google search for “Kevin Cozen” shows that he works in real estate design and planning. His own website touts: “The initial research and study of a project incorporates an analysis of the project site, understanding the client’s needs and program requirements, and extensive research of city ordinances.”

    How his job is to conduct “extensive research of city ordinances” and the idea that he didn’t know the house that he purchased couldn’t be rented is beyond belief. The prohibition on single family rentals is in place for an important reason. Without it, we are going to see good families leaving these neighborhoods only to be replaced by more people like the Cozens who see their homes as a commercial business, not a place for enjoyment and community.

     
  4. sierragrl March 8, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again…how can you collect a tax on an illegal activity? Of course the Cozen’s won’t complain as it was the lesser evil for them. They should be paying a civil fine for illegally renting their house. Is there no punishment to break that regulation? Apparently not as long as you pay the tax! Crazy. Why no comment from Wood, an Attorney, on this apparent conflict…ie charging a tax on an illegal activity.

     
    • ItsAllAbouttheMoney March 8, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

      The Federal Government has no problem collecting taxes due on profits from illegal activity, and neither should the Town. Ignorance is not an excuse for engaging in an illegal activity, and then defrauding the Town of the money due from that activity.

       
      • TOT or notot March 8, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

        TOT is not a tax on profits.
        The town of mammoth lakes does not collect a tax on profits.
        The Town of Mammoth Lakes collects a business tax on gross which is very small.
        TOT is a tax on paid by a Transient collected by a Operator of a Transient Occupancy Facility.
        Is the Cozens house really a Transient Occupancy Facility or is it just a home.

        TOT law”
        “Transient occupancy facility” means any place, space or structure, or portion of any place, space or structure, which is or may be occupied, or intended or designed for occupancy by transients for purposes of sleeping, lodging or similar use in conformance with the town’s zoning regulations”.

        Did they operate in a none zoned area YES!

         
        • ItsAllAbouttheMoney March 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

          Sorry, mis-typed. I meant to say “income” not “profit”. The tax is not on the property, it’s tax on the income from the transient rental activity in which they engaged.

           
  5. Mammoth local March 8, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    Sierragrl

    I agree with you for the most part. They should have paid some of the fine at least one incident of zone code violation. I am with you on the tax , how can you tax the activity if it is not authorized by code? Town Attorney feels it is OK, Wood I am not so sure. I would like to seem him state or re-state his position on the current ability to tax tot on a single family residence as I am unclear.

     
  6. Rich v Poor March 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    In precarious economic times, those in power-positions are going to try to pull off everything they can for personal gain.
    Get used to it. It’s only going to get worse. And equally problematic is the nasty and self-serving philosophy of “to hell with the little guy. Let ’em pull themselves up by their own bootstraps!”

     
  7. old local March 8, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    Shame on Jo Bacon, John Eastman and Rick Wood! Their ignorance and insensitivity is unexplainable. The Cozen’s got away with it and they are still advertising on VRBO! They will keep illegally renting their house until they are fined enough to make them stop. The Town staff’s and the Lodging Association’s work was ignored. It’s disgusting.

     
    • TOT or notot March 8, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

      The VRBO Cozen site is now renting Monthly ,,,, nothing wrong with that!!!

       
      • CozenLiars March 8, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

        How much do you want to bet they are advertising for “monthly” then someone asks if they would be willing to rent for a week, and they privately will.

         
        • TOT or notot March 9, 2013 at 10:59 am #

          Do you really think that is appropriate talk!
          Do you really think they would risk that again?

           
          • CozenLiars March 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

            Yup, I sure do. Why wouldn’t they? It’s not like our pathetic council will uphold the law anyway.

             
  8. Mark March 9, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    The precedent has been set for justification for every single person who collects TOT to withhold the funds for the entire year and refuse to pay any fines.

     
  9. ferdinandlopez March 9, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    hang em high

     
  10. a broken system March 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    This is what happens when the only qualifications any elected official has to have to wield so much power in the community – is that they received the most votes.
    And in Bacon’s and Raimondo’s case – ran unopposed and needed NO votes whatsoever.

    Behind the scenes factoid: Dave Wilbrecht was not a yes man to Rusty Gregory and look what it got him … fired!

     
  11. Trouble March 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    Maybe it’s payback, for Mammoth not sticking up for the June Lake people.

     
    • Their words - not mine March 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

      Ahem,

      I know this is certain to ruffle some feathers, but it one were to apply what one has been hearing in today’s highly volatile political arena as “gospel” for America, what comes to mind is one of their war cries:

      “Let them (people of June in this case) pull themselves up by their own bootstraps!”

      If I live to be a hundred, I will never understand the coldness, nor rationale of today’s far-right.

       
      • Ken Warner March 10, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

        The far right’s rational is pretty easy to understand if you take a step back and squint your eyes.

        Basically it’s: I screwed you fair and square. Now don’t ask for any help. I got mine and I’m gonna keep it all.

        The ideas of “one nation indivisible” and “we are all in this together” are simply too inconvenient for them because it requires them to have concern and compassion for all the little people who make their financial security possible every day.

         
        • Observing certain types March 11, 2013 at 9:55 am #

          I think you nailed it, Ken. The group you are referring to does appear to have a gigantic problem with compassion towards their fellow man. I think the extreme right personality views compassion as a weakness or something.
          Psychologists will tell you this is typical of persons with low self-esteem.

          Not much anyone can do to assist this type. They’ve got to find out why it is they are walking around angry all the time.

           
  12. Ken Warner March 9, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    You all make excellent points. And use reasonable logic to support them.

    But this town isn’t run buy logic and strict adherence to law. It is run by seat of the pants, knee jerk reaction to accommodate the interests of big developers or other interests that only they are aware of.

    Think about the General Plan document. How many years did they spend putting it together? I think around 5 years. Then when this or that developer stands before the Town Council and asks for variance — sure — what would you like? Higher density? Building heights greater than what is allowed by the code? Sure — no problem. What else do you want. The laws regarding TOT collection are just like that.

    So being outraged when the T.C. does something arbitrary and at odds with the laws they passed is really a pointless exercise. You will go to your grave without ever understanding the T.C.’s logic because there is no logic in the T.C.’s actions.

     
    • All Hail, King Gregory! March 10, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      Ken,
      You are correct. And don’t forget what has been going on in California for decades – develop-develop-develop until every square inch of land is gone. This is why so many of us have permanently left Southern California and its overcrowded craziness. It should come as no surprise that the primary spokesperson for the Town Counci is … you guessed it … a developer.
      And to make matters even worse, the King of the Mountain, Rusty Gregory, has been given so much power that he tells the Council what he wants and always gets it. Mono County however, is another situation, and are reluctant to give Gregory whatever he wants.
      So far, that is.

       
      • Ken Warner March 10, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

        That’s why I left San Diego 13 years ago. Only to find that there are powerful, rich forces trying to spread SoCal to Main St here. That’s the reason I find the Downtown Neighborhood Development Plan so offensive. They make money. We all lose the simple, quiet place to live that we came here for. We haven’t quite lost it yet though. But We the People have to wake up and take notice and I don’t see much of that.

         
        • One of the little guys March 10, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

          Whenever people take notice and want the rich and powerful to play the Share the Wealth card, you hear: “Shut up, you liberals!”
          And this seems to be enough for one large group that has been totally duped by the same rich and powerful.

           
  13. Just Saying! March 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Don’t lose the plot here folks, in my opinion this isn’t about the $7,000 Cozen fine. This is about an agenda to legalize the rental of single family dwellings.

    The drama here is nothing more of than our politicians attempting to justify the soon to be unpopular vote of legalizing home rentals in some neighborhoods where it’s not currently legal.

    Marching orders are marching orders, business interest want more beds for those few sold out winter weekends. The dwindling inventory thanks to FRBO has some property management companies in a panic and supporting this effort too. It’s not practical to build any more transient dwellings at todays cost, the easiest solution is to create a town crisis and solve it with the desired outcome as the only fair solution using the existing homes as inventory.

    Remember folks, this isn’t about what you want for your town or your neighborhood. It’s always about the money interest that controls our political system. The votes are already in and you don’t get one!

     
    • TOT or notot March 11, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

      You are not the first person to think that the whole TOT of SFR is an attempt to legalize.
      I have be saying that for weeks. The funny comment that I have got was that the Town staff and council are not that smart.

      HEE HEE Ha Ha HEEE HHHHEEEE I am gonna get a tummy ache.

       

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