A recent increase in realtors and leasers opening their homes for
vacationers made for a topical discussion at Tuesday’s Porter County
Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission meeting.
The point of examination– should the PCCRVC advertise vacation home
properties the same way as hotels and motels even if they are not subject to
the county innkeepers tax?
PCCRVC Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said the tourism bureau lists a
sampling of vacation homes available in the county, most of which are along
the Lake Michigan shoreline, on its web page of places to stay. Although no
complaints have been made, Weimer said she and her staff realized giving
free publicity to untaxed properties could become contentious and asked the
board to render its judgment.
“I felt this needed to be something for our board to decide,” Weimer said.
One of the options would be to rid the page of vacation home listings
altogether. She added that vacation homes are not promoted in any of the
PCCRVC’s printed materials.
Vacation homes do not fall under the umbrella of properties given in the
Indiana Department of Revenue’s Uniform County Innkeepers Tax Law which only
includes “hotels, motels, boat motels, inns, college or university memorial
unions, college or university residency halls or dormitories, or tourist
The tax of up to 5 percent for a visitor stay is directed back to the
tourism bureau for development and promotions.
Weimer said it is not the PCCRVC’s decision to change the Uniform Tax Law,
even though the state does give counties the opportunity to adopt their own
innkeepers’ ordinance tax to include vacation homes and bed and breakfasts.
Board attorney David Hollenbeck said collecting such a tax from vacation
homes would likely be “problematic” since they run on different schedules.
“Everybody is in their own little world with this,” Hollenbeck said.
But the board does have a say over what goes on its website and members felt
overall there should be something done to make things more fair like
charging owners of vacation home properties a fee for each listing
comparable to a tax collection amount.
There were some like President Mitch Peters who felt including the homes fit
the primary role of the website which is to interest the prospective visitor
in visiting local communities.
Fellow board member Richard Riley suggested some sort of deal be made with
the brokers in exchange for exposure on the website. Others pushed to have
the brokers create advertisements to promote their homes, but Weimer advised
web searches do not pick up on ads making it difficult for those using the
Website to find the home they are looking for.
Board member Scott Tuft asked how other counties who follow the Uniform law
are handling this issue. Weimer said nearby counties Marshall and Kosciusko
have an abundance of vacation homes and reportedly are facing the same
Ultimately the board voiced support for charging a fee to the brokers or
leasers if they wish to have their properties listed on the PCCRVC webpage.
Peters asked the staff to come up with a proposal on what the fee would be
and the board will vote on it at the next PCCRVC meeting on Jan. 11.
Meanwhile, in other topics, Weimer said she plans on appearing before the
County Commissioners at their Feb. 5 meeting to renew the discussion of
conducting a feasibility study on a revamp of the Porter County Expo Center.
The study had been proposed last year but so far the project has not been
funded. The study is estimated at $100,000.
Weimer said she will ask the Commissioners to approve the company the County
Branding Team is recommending to conduct the study.
For a few years now, the PCCRVC has hoped to turn the Expo Center into a
regional convention site.
Operations Director Patti Boyer announced the hiring of two new destination
concierges who are replacing a retiree and the late Jim Mannel. County E-911
dispatcher Kath Sepiol will be retiring at the end of this year from E-911
and has been volunteering on her days off to assume a concierge position.
Stacy Molzohn is the second hire. Boyer said Molzohn just moved to the area
and previously worked in military counseling.
Other items Tuesday:
• Board member John Johnson inquired if any updates have been made by the
Indiana Department of Natural Resources on leasing the Indiana Dunes
Pavilion at the state park. Weimer said she has not heard of any recent
developments in the matter and the DNR is still in negotiations with a
potential tenant. Plans to renovate the pavilion into a restaurant and
banquet hall were announced last December.
• The Visitors Center saw 2,539 visitors during the month of November
bringing its year-to-date total to 75,512. Weimer said last month, the
number of visitors to the webpage reached 1 million unique page views for
the year-to-date total.
• The December innkeeper’s tax collection check was $108,148, a 17 percent
increase over last year.
• The PCCRVC January meeting will feature a press conference to present the
latest economic impact report of Porter County’s tourism and travel