Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Tourism board may charge for vacation home listings on website

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

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 cabins.”

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 predicament.

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.

Expo Center study

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.

New Hires

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 industry.

 

 

Posted 12/12/2012