Hands off TOT

By From page A5 | February 27, 2013

The Economic Development Advisory Council under the dynamic leadership of attorney Jim Brunello has done yeoman’s work in simplifying any number of regulations — from street standards to modern traffic measurements. And they have plowed an entire mile-square section of General Plan updating and zoning.

We applaud that work, though the jury’s still out on the super-duper department combining planning, environmental management and transportation into a Community Development Agency and having their budgets managed by one overpaid finance person.

Recently, though, the group has seemed to have boinged off on a tangent, like a snowboarder doing a backside 180 who caught too much air. Brunello and his group are trying to grab some county money to dish out as they near the end of the half pipe.

The advisory council wants 10 percent of the Transient Occupancy Tax collected from motels.

Currently the motel tax revenue is split up with 10 percent going to the office that collects it, the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Office, 73 percent going to county Chamber of Commerce and the other EDAC — the El Dorado Arts Council — and 18.5 percent going into the General Fund.

The recent new direction for this group is not only hazy but a bit worrisome. The Economic Development Advisory Committee wants to shell out grants for “community identification” process wherein some activist group dictates what kind of architecture and color scheme a developer can use. Placerville and Georgetown wouldn’t look like they do if there had been a “community identification process.” That also applies to El Dorado Hills Town Center, which has primarily been a vision of Tony Mansour. And Serrano has been primarily a vision of Bill Parker.

Let’s leave the envisioning to the developers. It’s worked for Folsom. The difference for Folsom is it approves plans quickly.

The other spending plan by the Economic Development Advisory Committee is awarding grants to “fabric of the community” organizations. Among those cited are Davey Wiser’s stage coach rides, which the Placerville Downtown Association funds. Or Betty January’s volunteer group that organizes the Clarksville Days annual celebration on Brunello’s property. Or the Apple Hill Growers Association, which funds its own successful marketing program.

Someone else suggested putting the TOT funds to use getting people to stay overnight: “Let’s have eight or 10 things for them to do. We need attractions, but it takes seed money.”

Now there’s a project for the Economic Development Advisory Committee to work on: Eliminate the red tape and zoning that restricts motels in the Fair Play wine district or near Smith Flat, Carson Road or Camino. That doesn’t take public seed money. It takes seed zoning.

As for eight or 10 things to do, look no farther than Adventures Magazine produced by the Mountain Democrat. For free visitors can find 99 things to do in any season in El Dorado County.

Since 2009 the county has laid off hundreds of employees. The ones still holding down county jobs haven’t had a raise in six years. The county needs to hold onto its revenue sources, which have shrunken since 2008.

The Economic Development Advisory Council has been invaluable to the county and voluntary. Keep it voluntary and keep it out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

Special to Village Life


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