Navigating the Maze: Virtual Luncheon Explores Mammoth Lakes' Short-Term Rental Moratorium

Introduction: In a virtual gathering that brought together more than 70 concerned participants, Mammoth Lakes residents delved into the implications of the recently passed short-term rental (STR) moratorium. Facilitated by Realtor Mickey Brown, the discussion provided a snapshot of the historical context of STRs in town, shedding light on the intricacies that shape this contentious issue.

Historical Overview: Brown outlined the zoning regulations in Mammoth Lakes, emphasizing that significant changes had not occurred since the town's 2014 update to the 2007 general plan. These regulations, influenced by extensive community input, have given rise to current zoning codes that dictate the legal operation of STRs in the community.

The Moratorium: On October 18, Mammoth's Town Council adopted an urgency ordinance, imposing a 45-day moratorium on the issuance of new short-term rental registration certificates. Notably, the moratorium exempts housing units in specific areas, raising questions among community members about the perceived preferential treatment of "Resort Zoning."

Resort Zoning Complexities: Attorney Jeremy Ibrahim clarified that Resort Zoning, covering properties exceeding 20 acres, might be exempt due to pre-existing agreements that supersede general zoning rules. The discussion unveiled the challenges of rezoning properties like Canyon Lodge, originally designed as short-term stays for tourists.

Community Input and Proposed Solutions: As the conversation unfolded, community members voiced their concerns and proposed solutions. Suggestions ranged from limiting the number of permits per owner to requiring residency for operation. Council Member Bill Sauser highlighted the formation of a committee to address these concerns, underscoring the town's commitment to a comprehensive approach.

Financial Considerations: Transient rental owner Greg Newbry proposed taxing rental properties an additional 2%, potentially generating an extra $4 million per year for the town. The financial implications sparked further discussion on the town's authority to regulate STRs and the potential legal challenges that may arise.

Legal Perspectives: Ibrahim provided legal insights, discussing the distinction between absolute and partial taking in property rights. While acknowledging the town's authority to ban STRs, he emphasized the potential exception regarding vested rights—deeds permitting STR rentals that may face challenges if town codes change.

Conclusion: The virtual luncheon showcased the complexity and diversity of opinions surrounding Mammoth Lakes' STR moratorium. As the Town Council-appointed committee prepared to meet, it was evident that the community was actively engaging with the multifaceted issues, seeking a balanced and fair resolution to the challenges posed by short-term rentals in their picturesque town. The journey ahead promises to be intricate, involving legal nuances, community input, and thoughtful policy considerations.

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