EDITORIAL: All this unnecessary misinformation

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The private, non-profit Community Development Corporation — which gets almost all of its annual income from Archuleta County taxpayers — recently released a “poll” asking certain community members to give their opinions on a citizen-generated ballot measure that will appear on the April 5, 2022 Vote in the town of Pagosa Springs.

The CDC survey begins as follows:

We would like your opinion on a proposed short-term rental tax.

Recently, there has been a citizen-led effort to amend the city charter that introduces a short-term rent tax on workers’ housing. See Choice Language below. We’d love to hear from our business community how this will impact you and your business.

(Actually, it’s not a “short-term rental tax.” It’s a “fee,” as clearly stated in the language of choice.)

Please take a few minutes and complete this short survey. Responses will be collected and shared with our City Council. Please note the choice of language below.

“Effective June 1, 2022, the City of Pagosa Springs will collect a workforce housing fee from Short-Term Rentals (STRs) within the city limits of a minimum of $150 per month for each eligible bedroom, except that no workforce housing fee will be collected is payable when an STR Owner resides full-time on the STR Property for at least nine (9) months of the year. All worker housing fees are dedicated to the creation and sustainability of worker housing aimed at households earning no more than 100% of the region’s median income.”

1. Do you think this proposed City Charter change will be good for Pagosa Springs business? Please briefly explain why or why not?

The Mailchimp survey contains a series of sometimes vague questions, which in some cases give the survey taker limited opportunity to offer an honest opinion – and in other cases practically enough room to write an entire non-fiction book.

You can take part in the survey here. But only registered voters living within the city limits will be allowed to vote on the actual election measure on April 5.

It appears that the CDC survey is aimed specifically at “the business community.” (“We’d love to hear from our business community how this will impact you and your business….”)

It’s not clear why a non-profit community development corporation should have less interest in the “non-business community” – since that group comprises by far the majority of voters living in Archuleta County.

And while I happen to be a business owner, I haven’t heard about that survey from the CDC — so maybe they don’t want to hear about ours entire business community? (Or maybe I was neglected for helping circulate the petition that put this city foundation proposal on the ballot. Who knows?)

I learned about the CDC survey from an article by Terri House, editor of the weekly newspaper Pagosa Springs SUN, in yesterday’s newspaper. The article quoted a local businessman, Jason Cox, speaking at a Jan. 12 CDC meeting. Mr. Cox, who represents the CDC, has managed to solicit hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars from the Board of County Commissioners and the Town Council to support “economic development” projects run by the CDC.

CDC Representative Jason Cox summarizes the current broadband effort at a sparsely attended joint town-county meeting on March 26, 2019.

Here is a statement quoted by Mr. Cox’ from the SUN Article:

I think the voting language is a bit vague and abstract and I don’t see any way in the world that anyone could pass it, but the problem is, it’s a referendum and so we’re going to be out there with all sorts of information and misinformation want to exhibit. Believe me I have a lot of workers and they need housing and I’m on board [sic] I’m working on a solution but I think this is a really badly written ballot and I hope it doesn’t get accepted and the business community will kick their asses to not get it through.

(Actually, it’s not a referendum. It’s an initiative.)

the SUN Article refers to Mr. Cox as a “local businessman” but does not contain the (significant?) information that Mr. Cox himself operates at least one vacation rental property within the city limits. But since we’re also talking about “misinformation,” we might want to consider some additional comments cited in SUN.

I am completing my survey and will be sharing it with the Downtown Business Group as well. I know a lot of the players in it and I know it’s well intentioned and I think there are some legs here; There are some positive sides, but I also think there are some fatal flaws. First of all, the spelling of the language of choice for commercial properties that have a right of use for short-term rentals does not provide for any regulation at all. Therefore, it becomes extremely punitive for anyone in a business park.

The second is in the same commercial zone: we pay three times the same taxes that are currently paid for the same use and a right of use. Housing is not a right of use; it’s a privilege. So that’s not included in the choice language at all.

Is that “misinformation”? Or is Mr. Cox just confused about how the world works?

According to the Office of the Archuleta County Assessor (where I paid a visit yesterday), a short-term rental — STR, vacation rental — is a residential use regardless of where it is located in the community. As such, an STR pays a 7.15% property tax rate—the Colorado residential tax rate—even though it operates as a commercial operation. However, the hotel next door pays a “commercial” property tax rate of 29%, despite offering essentially the same service as the STR.

All other commercial businesses in Archuleta County also pay the higher rate of 29%. (Farming is a whole different beast.)

Mr. Cox may be confused, but the facts are simple. It makes no difference whether the STR is in a commercial or residential area—each Colorado STR receives a huge property tax rebate relative to its actual commercial use. The vacation rental industry, with active support from the Colorado real estate industry, has made a final run around the Colorado tax code that has saved them literally billions of dollars in business tax payments — while helping to push Archuleta County real estate prices through the roof.

The proposed City Charter change will – finally – give STR owners the opportunity to contribute to the financial and economic health of our community, in line with the businesses located next door.

But this important benefit was not addressed in the CDC survey. Unfortunately enough.

Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson began sharing his opinions in the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 and cannot break the habit. He claims that opinions are like pickup trucks in Pagosa Springs: everyone has one.

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