Business Improvement District proposal hung up on retail

oldmammothrdAs the old year ends, business owners in Mammoth Lakes still debate formation of a Business Improvement District. The biggest challenge, according to Mammoth Lakes Tourism Director John Urdi is which retail stores to include in the new district and how much to tax them. Lodging and restaurants will definitely go into the district. It’s retail that has raised questions.

The idea focuses on businesses that directly benefit from tourism with a tax on their gross income. The proposed taxation goes like this – Lodging pays 1%, retail and restaurant pay 1.5% and lift tickets and ski school pay 2%. All of this would raise an estimated $4 million. Around $2 million of that would go to marketing and sales, $175,000 to Public Relations, $1.1 million to air service marketing, $175,000 to special events and $175,000 to administrative costs and reserves. As Urdi said, the retail piece of this has held up a final agreement.

Sports shop owners Tom Cage and Tony Colasardo feel a 1% tax would be more fair. Cage said he and Colosardo have spent many hours meeting with retailers and Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory who first proposed a Business Improvement District. Cage said that retailers do not generally support the 1.5% tax. He said this would give Mammoth Lakes the highest tax rate in the state. Said Cage, “It’s too much, but we can support 1%.” Colasardo pointed out that a 1% increase for lodging would up the bed tax by roughly 12 to 13%. A 1.5% for retail would mean a bump in sales tax of 22%.

Another sticking point – right now, Vons, Rite-Aid and the Do-It Center are not in line for new taxes. Retailers say those places do benefit from tourism and should pay, lowering the overall tax needed. Tourism Director Urdi said it’s all up in the air right now. He admitted that the retail part of the plan presents the biggest challenge. Urdi said, “Lodging and restaurants are the easiest to define how they benefit from tourism.” Asked why Vons, Rite-Aid and the Do-It Center are not on the list to be taxed, Urdi said the exploratory committee on the new taxes does not want to impact local people. Urdi called Mammoth’s Improvement District “groundbreaking” because it will involve more than lodging which is what most BID’s in the state include. Urdi said, “The whole goal is to get the community marketed, including Mammoth Mountain.”

He is a believer that marketing will bring more people and more dollars to town. Urdi sees leveraging free air fare with lodging and dining packages as one way to do that. He said, “We need people to keep Mammoth in the top of their minds or they will go somewhere else.” He said marketing efforts could focus on mid-week and shoulder seasons to even out the economy. That’s been a Mammoth Lakes goal for decades. As for the improvement district, Urdi said the support for it outweighs concerns.

The exploratory committee of some 18 business people will meet again January 8. Urdi said they will get on the phone with their attorney and deal with what retailers can be taxed. Tom Cage said he has talked to twelve other retailers who “have heartburn about Vons, Rite-Aid and the Do-It Center not being included.” Cage said why not include them and lower the tax rate. With the sales tax in Mammoth Lakes at 7.25%, when Measure R’s .50% is added along with Measure 30 at the start of the new year at .25%, the total will equal 8%. Then add 1.5% for retailers and they sit at 9.5%. Many Mammoth retailers say that’s just too high.

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56 Responses to Business Improvement District proposal hung up on retail

  1. ferdinand lopez January 2, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    kudos to anyone who quotes the dead kennedys

  2. Chip Chipperson January 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    Ken are you one of those guys that shoot blanks at your TV when Rambo is on?” This could be anywhere, this could be every where”.-J Biafra

  3. Bill December 31, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    I think it’s disgusting that Vons, Rite Aid, DIY Center (Do it Center) would not be considered for this tax!!!!!!! They are corporations that send money (profits) right out of town!! They have many advantages small retailer do not have – why give them a break????

    And what true local DOES NOT shop at Footloose, Mammoth Mountaineering, Kittridge, P3, Tonic, Wave Rave, Brian’s, etc etc at least a little bit? Locals who are real locals should be supporting these local businesses – and the goods they sell ARE NOT over priced. You are supporting a local business with children in the school system, owners and employees who visit local dentists, hair salons, auto mechanics, insurance sales, basically money recirculating back into town in many ways.

    Once again, the comments of Mr. Ken Warner are troubling. Your non-support of local business shows your true, self indulgent, ignorant beliefs. Hope your computer and Amazon will provide a great bicycle tune up when its needed. I bet if you really shopped around one of Mammoth or Bishop’s local shops you would have got just as good a deal and by supporting a local business the piece of mind that comes w/ it.


    • Ken Warner December 31, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

      [Obscure reference test]

      “Oh nooo, Mr. Bill ouwwieee…”

      • Trouble January 1, 2013 at 9:50 am #

        Don’t feel like a total outcast Ken, your correct. Our country has gone from supply and demand principles, to whatever the market will bare.

        • Jeremiah's Alter Ego January 2, 2013 at 10:19 am #

          The Country has gone to whatever supports the rich and their greedy ways the most. When I learned the reason why Apple will never fully be built and manufactured here on US soil is because the profit margin will go down and the investors of the Apple stock won’t go for the profit margin to go down even if it means American Jobs. A sick sick system we are systematically a part of.
          Or this fiscal cliff BS, Our Reps knew this day was coming two years ago and now they want to create this so called cliff so they can get credit for not going over it. .
          We all know the Clinton era tax rates worked great, Why doesn’t that Idea trump all others in a time when we need real results??

  4. MJA December 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    How about reducing the payment to Ballas and his friends to 100 dollars a month and calling that the deal! Deal?


    • Benett Kessler December 28, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

      MJA, Please realize your suggestions are no longer options. The deal is signed. The bankruptcy court pressed Mammoth to the wall and this is what the Town opted to live with.

      • Civility vs Nasty December 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

        Today’s Mammoth Times had a terrific note in the letters section regarding the Times not publishing anonymous letters, the citing of sources, and no uncivil name-calling will be allowed.

        Bravo, Mammoth Times! Bravo!

      • MJA December 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

        Its a done deal except for the money part, right?


        • Benett Kessler December 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm #


        • SkiJohn December 31, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

          MJA, I truly believe your intentions are good, but it’s a DONE DEAL! The whole thing. Done, over, gone, settled. We’ve already made a payment to them – 2.5 million, and 2 million every year for a long, long time.

          • MJA December 31, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

            Settled except for the money, the millions of dollars yet paid, where it will come from, and the payments over a long long time.
            This deal is far from done.
            I think Mammoth should continue to way and search for options including not paying Ballas another dime.
            That would be the just thing to do beins the deal really aint done.
            Go Mammoth!


            And thanks BK for keeping us up on the doins!

  5. Ken Warner December 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    And by the way, the difficult times our local businesses are having isn’t caused by me not eating $12 burritos — it’s because they are all in competition with MMSA and the businesses they quietly partner with.

    MMSA is in competition with every single business in Mammoth but Von’s, RightAid and DoIt and the gas stations. And how long before they open a gas station and use free gas as a promotion?

    Sorry, but I just don’t have enough money to make up the difference in tee-shirts so I guess I’ll remain the same disgusting person….

  6. familygal December 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    @greg: why should property owners pay for the TCs bad decisions? I am a property owner and I will not vote to raise my property tax, no matter how small the increase. My solution: first vote those on the TC responsible for this mess OUT of office, second keep the police department at it’s current level (before those that are leaving), third – have the mountain pay for the settlement by raising rates for alpine programs, food, lift tickets, parking – you name it – let them raise the rates…that way locals and visitors absorb the TCs bad decisions….then both can vote with their money whether to support the TCs bad decisions…or not…

    • Greg Young December 28, 2012 at 10:58 am #

      Because if you voted, you and I voted these individuals into office. If you didn’t vote, shame on you for that! Either way, the TC didn’t just appear one day. They were voted into office. Like it or not, we live with their decisions.

      Remember, above all, at this point it simply doesn’t matter who made those decisions or why. The final decision has been rendered by the courts and the Piper must be paid.

      Current TC is shooting themselves (and us) in the foot by dimishing town operations/services/protection to try to pay for this very impactful court decision.

      Forget the Business Improvement District as it is another layer of administration that will cost more money. The Chamber of Commerce can learn to work together to improve/attract business. They don’t need tax dollars to do that, though tax incentives may help.

      • quietstorm January 1, 2013 at 3:55 am #

        never did I vote woods, eastman and barrett into office! and from those three the seeds of this mess were planted and watered!

  7. Greg Young December 27, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Stop trying to change the way you (Town Council) run the town budget. This settlement is a punishment for a bad decision. Doesn’t matter now the how, the why and the who. This is a court ordered punishment.

    The town has been pared back too much already, especially law enforcement. So how to pay for it?

    Get a bond and pay for it with a propterty tax that is just enough to cover the cost of the bond. Probably $15-20 per month per property . . . probably a little more for the business properties. Property owners have the most to gain from an improved business climate. If you insist on spreading the punishment around, okay, a quarter percent hike in sales tax. That would still put us under what many large municipalities pay now in sales tax, so it won’t shock the visitors and can probably be absorbed by everybody. (Thats $2.50 for every $1,000 you spend).

    The town can prbably get the bond money for less interest than the current settlement, so there is another possibility for savings.

    A property owner sees even a half percent increase in property values and they have way more than a return on their additional property tax and as a plus, while they are paying it, it is tax deductible (or as some of you might refer to it, as a “loop hole”).

    (Property worth a miserly $250,000 sees a half percent increase in value, equals $1,250, or about 100 months of increased tax payments)

    So, Town Council, here is one voter saying how to raise a tax(s) that is affordable and can even return a profit if you keep the town running at the level that provides a good and safe experience for everyone, locals and visitors alike.

    And Chamber of Commerce, while you are looking at improving the business climate, start working together and figure out how to market this town to green-like companies such as software developers who could have their divisions placed here after the arrival of Digital 395. That will give you people who have money to spend all year and may want to work in the paradise we call the Eastern Sierras.

    • Is Capitalism Doomed? December 31, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      1.A capitalist economy must expand in order to remain healthy.
      2. Expansion requires resources.
      3. Resources are finite within the universe.

      Thus we find that there comes a point, wherein there are no resources free to be used for expansion. As expansion halts, the capitalist economy withers and dies.

      We see here that due to no future expansion (there aren’t any resources with which to expand), the economy cannot grow. King Gregory gave a thumbs-down to June Lake skiing. (Even in an information based economy there comes a point when everything is known). Without the expectation of growth, there will be no investment, as there will be no return on investment. Short run Aggregate Supply will fall, as it is no longer profitable to produce. As SAS drops, unemployment will run rampant, and as no one has money to purchase goods and services, the economy collapses under it own dead weight.

  8. Outraged Citizen December 27, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    The businesses can vote to establish the District but the town ultimately has to approve the resolution.

  9. Support local businesses December 27, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    Dear Ken Warner –

    Your post is offensive and absurd. Yes, Mammoth has some higher prices, for obvious reasons. You live in this wonderful town, yet publicly say you won’t shop at 99 percent of its businesses. You are the problem, not the solution. There wouldn’t be a Mammoth Lakes if its citizens showed your cheapness and lack of foresight. You disgust me.

    • Ken Warner December 28, 2012 at 12:03 am #

      So I’m a problem because I won’t be a tool for the greedy corporations and small time crooks who run this town and speak through witless puppets like yourself.

      Ok, I can live with that…..

      • Benett Kessler December 28, 2012 at 9:01 am #

        Ken, I think the commenter was supportive of the individuals who own businesses in Mammoth and struggle, like all of us small business owners, to bring a good product to
        people at a fair price. It’s not easy in the Eastern Sierra. Certainly some stores may be priced for tourists. And, some are chain stores with local managers. So, you
        shop at the big corporate stores in town (?)
        Benett Kessler

        • Ken Warner December 28, 2012 at 11:46 am #

          No, that guy is just another idiot hiding behind a pseudonym to satisfy his own need for notoriety. His words and intent are no more meaningful than a robocall.

          We here in Mammoth don’t have much choice in where we get our basic necessities. We can’t drive to Bishop to shop — that costs too much. So we have to live with the local prices for necessities. We used to have two markets but the Village wiped out one of them. So much for support your local businesses.

          But that doesn’t mean I have to eat bad food at overpriced restaurants or subscribe to a tee-shirt shop for weekly updates of my wardrobe. Or not get other gear from the web.

          I got a really good bike off eBay for half the price I would have paid in town. Same with household goods and clothing. The web is the competition to the local, traditional brick and mortar shop. I pity the fool who opens a business that depends on walk-in trade.

          Amazon and eBay and CostCo and WalMart — does everybody who shops those places disgust that person? He must be really disgusted.

          • Benett Kessler December 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

            Ken, Maybe you should sit down and watch one of the versions of A Christmas Carol. Even Scrooge opened his heart to his fellow man. I happen to know, in this case, that the person you are
            attacking is a good-hearted local man who sees the plight of the small business owners. You offended him with your disdain for local business. Your comments are misplaced and inaccurate this time. This particular man is not an idiot, has no need for notoriety and does not have an empty, soulless intent.
            Benett Kessler

          • Ken Warner December 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

            …but it’s ok for him to call me disgusting?

            Whatever — anyone who hides behind pseudonyms can’t be taken very seriously.

      • SkiJohn December 28, 2012 at 11:09 am #

        No Ken, you’re the problem because you never offer realistic solutions, you don’t add anything positive on this blog and you certainly do NOTHING for this community except gripe and complain on here. Now you admit you don’t even bother to support local businesses! Unbelievable. If you hate Mammoth, you don’t shop here, you disagree with the airport, everyone is stupid but you, you support nothing and no one – you really should MOVE!

        • Ken Warner December 28, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

          If people would have listened to me — and others — about the bad decisions made about the airport development, maybe we wouldn’t be in this mess now.

          • The People no longer care December 31, 2012 at 11:15 am #


            In a true democracy, The People would have a say in the airport development fiasco. Unfortunately, its the elected officials who have the power – not The People. We even had one elected official (Eastman) who was there from the beginning, tried to use his influence to get a relative a job at the airport and guess what?…
            The guy is STILL in power.

            Unfortunately The People no longer care, people like Eastman know this and there Eastman remains.

        • Bill December 31, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

          Agree 100%.

      • Tourbillon December 28, 2012 at 11:56 am #

        That’s not the way it works.

        Maybe I don’t think our adventures in the middle east are great ideas but I still have to pay taxes to support them. Maybe I think mindless subsidies for failed energy solutions are a sop for greedy corporations courtesy of small time crooks in D.C. – but I don’t have the luxury of blowing off the part of my taxes that go to fund it. See, the way “fairness” is defined in a democracy is that the burden of bad government decisions are imposed on everyone. Doesn’t make one a “witless puppet” to recognize this. By the way, the nasty name-calling raises suspicions that someone has gone off their anger management meds again.

        • Ken Warner December 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

          Ignoring your petty insults — I pay the same taxes. And I don’t like unnecessary war or subsidies to the fossil fuel industry either. But they are the law of the land and in the end those taxes do more good than harm.

          But the BID tax is not yet the law of the land — or town — yet. And now is the time to discuss it and point out it’s flaws and unfairness to the people who would pay it yet not receive benefit from it.

          Yes, this is a democracy and like everybody else, I have the right to speak out against a bad idea.

          The BID has a core of a good idea but the way it is described to be used seems to me to need some revision.

          For example: why not pay at least part of the annual payment to MLLA so that we don’t have to dismantle our police department?

          Not one word has been spoken by the advocates of the BID about contributing to the fix of the core problem — the annual payment to MLLA. Yet they are willing to force the local people — who really don’t have a lot of money and are already paying Prop. R and Meas. U taxes — to pay even more money to advertise and market their business ventures. Should’t those businesses absorb those marketing expenses as the cost of doing business.

          Where does the right of our local businesses to tax the local people to pay for their business expenses come from? I don’t understand that.

          That is not any more right than using tax money to pay for unnecessary wars or subsidies to the fossil fuel industries. And now is the time to stop that from happening.

  10. mammoth Resident December 27, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    what i want to know is how is this tax going to be implemented?

    Is it voted on by the public? the Council? How is it to be done.

    • Benett Kessler December 27, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      The businesses participating vote among themselves. The taxes go to the Town which then administers the money back to Mammoth Lakes Tourism for the uses listed in our story. The Town keeps an administrative fee. It does not go to a public vote. This involves approval of a majority of the businesses that would be taxed.
      Benett Kessler

      • J.J. December 28, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

        Businesses, voting among themselves to tax the public for monies to market their interest?

        Why are they not voting to fund the BID out of their own income streams?

        How is it that a business that can underreport their income and payroll taxes, can be allowed to vote on a new public sales taxes that can also be underreported but the public has no voting rights in the matter?

        Where is the outrage from the Sierra Wave, The Sheet, The Mammoth Times or the town council? Are they anticipating some additional income from the marketing tax dollars too?

        Is this just the next chapter of the same old Mammoth shenanigan$ that led to the MLLA fiasco in the first place?

        Is this a form of Taxation without representation?

        Why is an annual independent audit of all businesses that are part of the BID/TOT town income stream not being discussed to be included?

        Is this the next generation of carpetbaggers cranking up the old hype machine again? Best summer ever! Best winter ever!

        What you won’t hear, is best public tax scheme for private benefit ever.

        This town operates much like a “Den of Thieves” “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”.

        • Ken Warner December 30, 2012 at 10:20 am #

          Bravo!!! Well said….

      • Trouble January 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

        Hey Benett, when are our blogger voting rights going to be resorted?

        • Benett Kessler January 3, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

          We’re having problems with the website and will be making some changes. Stay tuned.

        • The original J.J. January 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

          Trouble this isn’t a democracy, you get a vote when the plutocrats say you get a vote !

  11. lennie krantz December 27, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    1% across the board. Vons Riteaid Do It The Mtn, maybe even a 1% property tax assessment. Keep it fair! Nobody asked for the enormous law suit, unfortunately all of us, locals & tourists alike have to deal with the consequences.
    Lennie Krantz
    Sierra Jewelers, Mammoth Lakes

    • Ken Warner December 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm #


      I didn’t have anything to do with creating the mess that led to the law suit and the eventual penalty award. Let those who did pay for it.

      I’ve been against spending money on the airport for anything since I became aware of the details years ago. There are others who feel the same way.

      Don’t try to shuffle the burden off on me. This isn’t everybody’s problem. It’s the prolem of a select few people who now are trying to sell their screwup to everybody else.


    • familygal December 27, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

      Lennie…NO on property tax increase! Never!

    • Chip Chipperson December 28, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      How about a 15% surcharge..on all “luxury items”….Snomobiles, Skis, Snow Blowers, Season Passes….and most of all, JEWELRY…….GET IT?

      • Trouble December 31, 2012 at 6:58 pm #

        Chip- I hope you are kidding. That’s like shooting yourself in the foot.

        • Ken Warner December 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

          But that’s the self hurting attitude of a lot of the “support your local (whatever)” crowd.

          I guess to really support the local businesses, one should shop around for the most expensive items they can find and go into deep debt to buy them. And if you are spending less than $30 a meal, then you are “disgusting” — according to some.

          And to all those people, what are you doing on this blog? This blog is based in Bishop. Shouldn’t you be on the Sheet or the Mammoth Times or MMSA’s forums?

          I mean, if you are sincere about what you say and are not just eager to be self serving.

          • Benett Kessler December 31, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

            Ken, dear, chill!!! The Sierra Wave is universally Eastern Sierra. Hey, after all,
            the famous Los Angeles TV stations are really in Burbank.
            Happy New Year,

          • Trouble January 1, 2013 at 9:22 am #

            Ken, you’re in trouble now! Reading The Sheet is sort of like watching I Love Lucy reruns. I much prefer the Three Stooges here.

          • erik simpson January 1, 2013 at 10:39 am #

            Trouble is right on the money here. Except that I believe there are lots more than just three stooges present. But Ken, why are you so worked up? By your own account your involvement with TOML is pretty minimal.

        • Chip Chipperson January 1, 2013 at 9:35 am #

          I’m responding to the jewelers comment….Im against any kind of tax increase..Im for fiscal responsibility, something that elected officials around the country dont seem to have a grasp of.. I didnt appreciate Lenny suggesting taxing other businesses…I was upstaging the ridiculous w/ ridiculousness….@Ken…chill pill man, you arent going make it through the new year w/ all the stress you project in your posts….

  12. Ken Warner December 27, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    As long as Von;s, RightAid and DoIt are not “taxed”, I could care less. I don’t buy anything in Mammoth other than the bare essentials at the above stores.

    Everything else I buy online. Anyone who buys anything in Mammoth has either got more money than he wants to count or is stupid.

    Town Slogan — Come to Mammoth and pay more — we love your money.

  13. Outraged Citizen December 27, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    It is absurd to me that this new “tax” will go only to tourism, marketing, etc. Does anyone not realize that when the town goes to hell quickly because we have a sub-par police force that all the marketing in the world will not get people here? I have personally been telling every tourist that I can about the police department situation. Get your head on straight, Mammoth! If you are going to tax the citizens extra, please provide the MINIMAL services that they deserve. I am moving from Mammoth at the end of this season because I will not live in a town where I do not feel safe. Hopefully others do the same and then MAYBE the declining tax base will be an eye opener to the circus of a town council we have.

    • Benett Kessler December 27, 2012 at 10:53 am #

      Just a note on that – At least three Town Council members have said they will not initiate taxes on the local residents. Business owners, initiated by MMSA, are putting together the BID taxes. The Council did say if citizens brought forward a request for taxes to offset cuts to Town services, they would consider putting the proposed taxes on the ballot. BK

      • Outraged Citizen December 27, 2012 at 11:33 am #

        But the city council still has to sign off on the BID. So, are the three members not going to sign off on this new “tax” since they say they won’t initiate taxes on local residents? Or, do they think that “locals” don’t actually eat out and shop in Mammoth?

        • Benett Kessler December 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

          My understanding is that the process involves the businesses only making the decision. Mr. Urdi made the point that they are trying to leave out retail stores that locals use, but you’re right locals do eat out and shop at a variety of places. In most communities lodging is the only type of business in a BID. I also understand there will be public meetings on this after a firm proposal comes about. BK

          • Outraged Citizen December 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

            Not exactly. BIDs are covered under Streets & Highways Code
            §36600 of the California Code. There has to be a resolution passed by the town council to put it into place. Feel free to read up on it.

    • Eternal Liberal January 2, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

      Outraged Citizen,


      SEE YA.


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