Monday, April 19, 2010

Area resorts' study hits county budget

What better way to gauge the effect of destination resorts on Central Oregon's economy than to commission a study that could cost upwards of $150,000. Automatically, such a costly study would make resorts a drain on county coffers.

It's the county's policy to approve destination resorts without having any idea what impact they have on local infrastructure or resources. Deschutes County has three destination resorts: Sunriver, Eagle Crest and Pronghorn. Another resort, Thornburgh, is planned near Redmond. The county must accept the developer's rosy study as the definitive analysis of a resort's impact on the region.

Destination resorts are viewed by critics, including Central Oregon LandWatch, as ways developers can skirt Oregon land-use laws and create unincorporated areas that draw on government services without adequate compensation for those services.

A March 2009 study by C.O. LandWatch showed that the Thornburgh resort would be a net cost to local taxpayers of $51.28 million.

Since Oregon doesn't have a sales tax, Central Oregon loses millions in revenue since this area's economy is now tourist-driven. Also, room taxes are artificially low, 7 percent, as opposed to around 10 percent in the rest of Oregon and around the country. Much of the local room tax is "kicked back" to the tourism industry to be used to attract more tourists.

Eagle Crest, created by the Jeld-Wen conglomerate, fought tooth and nail against inclusion in Redmond's city limits. When Eagle Crest's sewage system failed, it was able to tap into the city's system at a fraction of the actual cost. And some say Oregon is hostile to business when, in fact, it bends over for business.

The destination resorts have become de facto subdivisions with year-round residents that are a drain on local government services. The minimum wage jobs they create do not generate a livable wage for area residents. But, these resorts do help the restaurants and retailers in the area.

Still, destination resorts are like anti-communities. Since there is a lack of accountability to the greater good, these resorts perpetuate isolation from Bend, Redmond and Sisters instead of integration. Such Balkanization of the area is not healthy -- socially or financially -- in the long run.

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