No other resort community in Colorado has benefited more from the support and involvement of the second homeowner than the Telluride community. Since 1981 when the 3 percent real estate transfer tax was initiated over $54 million has been paid into the Town of Telluride coffers. The majority has come from second homeowners. Not only have they paid the highest transfer tax of any resort in Colorado but also the highest building approval and governmental fees compared to any other resort. They pay the majority of our school taxes yet for the most part don’t have children enrolled here. They also helped pay for our library and most recently gave the significant majority of the donated money for the acquisition of the Valley Floor. Yet Telluride seems to have a love/hate relationship with the second homeowner. Many seem to resent their presence here. Some want to penalize them for not being here often enough. In other words, a home vacancy tax. Many of the second homeowners have become permanent residents of our community. They and our part-time residents support our sporting goods stores, our restaurants, our art galleries, our cultural events and volunteer for many of our nonprofits. Without the second homeowner and major regional developers the Telluride Foundation would have never been created.
I am sad to say that Telluride has the lowest number of real estate sales year-to-date compared to any resort in the state of Colorado. While we have always loved being small, contained and remote, real estate has historically been a vital part of the economics of this community. Recently at the urging of several long-time locals the Telluride Town Council has initiated a new penalty fee for job creation in one of the most significant unemployment times in our history. Unemployment is on the rise in our community as well the U.S. and penalizing home builders for creating jobs seems to be exactly opposite of what the President of the United States is trying to do.
How high are our fees? Our real estate transfer tax is double Aspen’s, triple Vail’s and competes with 0 percent transfer tax in Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs and Durango. Some of the regular locals who attend the Town Council meetings while the rest of us are working would have you believe that we can continue to gouge the affluent with more fees that they won’t notice. Even some of our Town Council members have stated that publicly. In addition to these new fee suggestions are discussions by some locals to reduce the size of houses that can be built in Telluride and even tell people what kind of refrigerator, washer and dryer they can own. Where will it stop? Some have suggested that we need economic diversification and to the best of my knowledge the vast majority of the real estate community supports that idea. That would not only be good for the local economy but be good for real estate and give more second homeowners and part-time residents a reason to move here. However, I would like to point out that every other destination resort in the U.S. is trying to diversify and has been trying for the last 20-40 years. It is most difficult for destination resorts and far easier for resorts that are closer to metropolitan areas to diversify their economies.
Someone has to send a message to Town Council and the community at large that this caviler attitude that the town of Telluride can continue to tax, fee and permit our way out of this recession will kill the last bit of real estate economy that we have. The second homeowner still wants to come enjoy Telluride and many of them have begun to look at real estate again. If we kill the last remaining real estate fruit-bearing tree that we all have benefit from, it will be impossible for many of the local businesses to survive much less the Town of Telluride government to meet its bond issues and budgetary requirements in the coming years. In this person’s opinion our town government and many in our local community needs to change their attitude toward the second homeowner. We need to tell these important part-time members of our community that we appreciate them being here supporting our local businesses and charities. I propose that the current Mayor of Telluride write that letter with every member of Town Council signing it, have it published in both newspapers to be sure that the current second homeowners and future second homeowners know that they are welcomed and appreciated.
Lastly, we have got to be competitive in the resort industry in Colorado. We can’t continue to have the highest governmental entry fees no matter how beautiful Telluride is and no matter how much we love this place. We are now in the most serious economic times since the ski area opened in 1972. We have to change our attitude and start being more friendly, thankful and appreciative of the second homeowner who has helped create our wonderful public facilities and help pay for the great recreation that we all enjoy.