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ODOT asks Klamath County for Brett Way extension help

This H&N file photo depicts Commission chair Donnie Boyd at a Klamath County Commissioners business meeting.

The Klamath County Board of Commissioners postponed a vote on adopting ordinance No. 92 that would create procedures for the establishment, operation, modification and disestablishment of tourism improvement areas in Klamath County after the second of two public hearings on the issue.

The vote was originally scheduled for Tuesday morning, Oct. 22, but was moved to Tuesday, Oct. 29’s business meeting.

Nine people, including several hotel owners, spoke at the hearing Tuesday to oppose the ordinance while two spoke in favor of it. The first public hearing was in Oct. 8’s business meeting and three people spoke; two opposed and one in favor.

Some of the hotel owners who opposed the ordinance on Tuesday spoke against added fees, but the ordinance itself doesn’t propose any fees. Commissioner Donnie Boyd said that if the ordinance passes, it doesn’t give the commissioners the authority to add a lodging fee, but Ordinance No. 92 is an enabling ordinance and the first required step in creating the groundwork should entities petition the county move in that direction.

Greg Astley with the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association sent a letter to the commissioners right before the Tuesday morning’s meeting, according to Commissioner Donny Boyd, and Boyd postponed the vote after the hearing because, he said, “I have not digested this,” referring to the letter from Astley.

Astley’s letter to the commissioners took issue with some definitions and unclear language in the ordinance.

Commissioner Derrick DeGroot said that he understands some of the issues written about in the letter and wanted to speak with the author before voting as well.

“I took some time to read it this morning and there are some, what I would consider, some legitimate concerns that I would actually like to have an opportunity to speak with him,” DeGroot said. “I know that everyone knows that I have issues with this ordinance anyway, and he brings up some very valid concerns.”

Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris motioned to adopt the ordinance after the hearing but received no second from the other two commissioners, causing her motion to fail.

While some hotel owners and association members are against the ordinance, Discover Klamath Executive Director Jim Chadderton was the one person to speak in favor of the ordinance at the Oct. 8 meeting and Jesse Widener, Executive Director of Klamath Film, also spoke in favor at Tuesday’s hearing through his position on Discover Klamath’s board.

“There has been a lot of support presented by Discover Klamath. There’s a concerted effort by a minority who’s opposed to this, and that’s fine, everybody’s allowed to voice their opinion. I think you all know this is really about the enabling ordinance and not about the TIA itself,” Widener said in the meeting. “I think we need to get past this continued rehashing of this one minor step to get to the point where we can really dialogue about what that language is that people are unhappy about.”

Victoria Haley with the Pacific Northwest Hotel Management Inc. spoke against the ordinance on Oct. 22. She is concerned over the lack of clarity around where the money collected from fees goes to and the practice of levying fees on hotel owners in a way that doesn’t require a public vote.

“This ordinance is a way to circumvent the Tourism Lodging Tax, and therefore circumvent a vote of the public,” Haley said in an emailed statement to the Herald and News. “A large amount of the money already being collected by the Tourism Lodging Tax is going to things that are not providing a benefit to tourism. Additional money should not be collected to add to this misused funding.”

The background on the ordinance states, “It is the desire of the Board of County Commissioners to create a mechanism, pursuant to the County’s authority, to allow certain businesses to initiate the formation of tourism improvement areas for the purpose of providing enhanced improvements and services for the benefit of those businesses within the tourism improvement area.”

The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the ordinance during the 8:30 a.m. business meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 29.