Mountain News: Petition to end 1,400 short-term rentals 

click to enlarge Short-term debate South Lake Tahoe residents want to ban short-term rentals
  • Short-term debate South Lake Tahoe residents want to ban short-term rentals

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Three people in South Lake Tahoe have set out to gather signatures necessary to put a proposition on the election ballot in November 2018. If passed, the measure would all but eliminate use of private homes for short-term rentals such as is accomplished by Airbnb and other internet-based rental services.

Ken Weitzman told the Lake Tahoe News that he and his cohorts are seeking the ballot measure because "the city has not done anything to alleviate the problems created by vacation rentals in neighbourhoods. There are so many people who are tormented week in and week out." Noise, they said, is a major issue.

Currently, South Lake Tahoe allows 1,400 vacation home rentals outside the tourist area. They propose to eliminate all those rentals within a year of the ballot's passage.

The city, said Lake Tahoe News, has held dozens of meetings, revised the ordinance governing short-term rentals multiple times since 2003 and commissioned an economic study. Council members next week will decide whether to cap the number of vacation home rentals at 1,400.

South Lake Tahoe gets US$2.8 million in tax revenues from the vacation rentals.

Nancy Kerry, the city manager, warned of unintended consequences of taking all the units off the short-term rental market. "Many of those homes would likely be placed on the market to sell, which would flood the market immediately, reducing property values," she said.

E-bikes find a niche in Canmore, but not Banff

CANMORE, Alberta — Electrically assisted bicycles, called e-bikes, are gaining popularity in Canmore, the gateway town to Banff National Park.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook told the story of one local resident who moved from central Canmore to a suburb. "By bicycle, it's 'an hour plus a shower,'" she says of her commute to her job. With her e-bike, the commute is just 14 minutes — and a lot less expensive than maintaining a car.

A meeting was held recently in Canmore about e-bikes, and a crowd made up mostly of retirees showed up, eager to learn more.

E-bikes must be pedalled to move, unlike a scooter or motorcycle. They usually come equipped with governors that limit speed to 32 km/h.

Canmore allows e-bikes on all its trails, but Parks Canada bans them on trails in Banff National Park. Banff, the town, is reviewing its policy to see if they may provide another solution in its traffic congestion.

How about on backcountry trails? The International Mountain Bike Association released a study in 2015 that found e-bikes damaged trails no more than regular mountain bikes.

Lake Louise in trouble

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta — The Lake Louise Ski Area will be going to triahl in December on charges that staff members in 2014 illegally cut down whitebark pine trees.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook explained that whitebark pine is listed as endangered in Canada. It is considered an important tree of the high-elevation forests.

Fire suppression, a warming climate, and mountain pine beetles have combined to threaten the survival of the species. Also at work is a disease called white pine blister.

California ski town not sure of cannabis sales

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Cannabis sales for recreational purposes will become legal in California this coming January. Will skiers on their way to Northstar, Squaw, or other resorts in the region be able to buy a joint on their way to the slopes?

Not in Truckee, it appears, at least for the time being. The town has not settled on a policy, but town attorney Andrew Morris said the town council may enact a moratorium, as authorized by California law, until a decision is made.

The town has been mulling its choices for months and has had several well-attended stakeholder meetings. But there is no consensus yet about the best way forward. Town staff members have recommended a model for legalization unlike that found anywhere else: delivery only instead of brick-and-mortar stores.

There is, however, strong support for not allowing any sales to anyone under 21, thus keeping it at the same age as for liquor.

Cannabis medicinal sales have been allowed in California since 1996, but not in Truckee.

Morris, who is also the attorney for Mammoth Lakes, Calif., reported that municipality has not yet decided whether to allow sales and how. Across California, municipalities are "all over the map" about how to go forward with the new authority.

In this, California is much like Colorado. Aspen and Telluride in 2014 immediately allowed marijuana sales and with regulation similar to that of liquor stores. Others have been more restrictive, and some have chosen not to allow marijuana at all, either medicinal or recreational.

Aspen adds a hefty tax to all tobacco products

ASPEN, Colo. — A US$3 tax will be added to the price of a pack of cigarettes in Aspen. About three-quarters of voters last week also agreed to incrementally increase the tax by 10 cents a year until the local tax hits US$4. Other tobacco products will be taxed at a rate of 40 per cent.

Aspen voters also raised the minimum age for tobacco products to 21 years old, the first in Colorado to adopt that age threshold. Aspen, noted the Aspen Daily News, banned indoor smoking in the 1980s, among the first jurisdictions in Colorado to do so.

The newspaper reported the new tobacco tax could generate up to $325,000 in its first year, although the city will have to forego $75,000 in state tobacco taxes now collected within the city and returned to the city by the state. A 1970s state law prevents state tobacco tax funds from flowing back to communities that pass their own tobacco regulations.

Steamboat house goes for less than $500,000

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — In housing, it's all relative. Searching the for-sale listings, Steamboat Today's Tom Ross came upon just one single-family house below US$500,000 — and not that many below US$1 million in Steamboat Springs.

In Aspen, that was the news 15 or 20 years ago. Steamboat always has had lower price points. The result is that outlying towns haven't boomed the way those have in the valleys where Aspen and Vail are located.

But Hayden, located a half-hour drive down-valley from Steamboat along the Yampa River, is finally experiencing a mini-building boom. This year, 15 residential permits were issued. And for $150,000, you can buy a small, three-bedroom house.

A fitting punishment

HAILEY, Idaho — U.S. President Donald Trump, when on the campaign trail, called for the execution of Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier in Afghanistan who deserted his post in 2009 and was captured and tortured by Taliban warriors for five years.

Bergdahl grew up in Hailey, near Ketchum and the Sun Valley Resort.

The U.S. Army was more forgiving than Trump. Instead of imprisonment for life, as military law allowed, he was given a dishonourable discharge and reduced in rank, but given no time in prison.

Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen told the Idaho Mountain Express that he figures that's about right.

"Bowe Bergdahl made a serious mistake and took responsibility for it, paid a price already for it and, interestingly, the army took full advantage of it," he said

After Bergdahl was released in 2014, his debriefing yielded information that was reportedly a "gold mine" for military intelligence officers. But at least one family grieves still, the result of critical injuries to a soldier who was dispatched to try to rescue Bergdahl. The soldier survived but suffered injuries that severely crippled him.

Bob and Jani Bergdahl, parents of the soldier, shared an essay that they told the Mountain Express epitomizes their views on the attitudes toward their son. That essay, by Matthew Hoh, said there "is no logic to our violence, only the unending and insatiable requirement for more war and more destruction."

Hoh, a former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, went on to say: "And there is no forgiveness in this loudly and righteously proclaimed Christian nation, only the scapegoating of a young man and his family for the failures of immoral and unwinnable wars."

Aspen in the national news

ASPEN, Colo. — Once again, Aspen has become the setting for a national controversy, this time the sexual improprieties of comedian Louis C.K. The New York Times last week reported that five women, including other comedians, were accusing him of the improprieties. In one case, two of the women said he masturbated in front of them in an Aspen hotel room in 2002.

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