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Forum: Should 2nd-Home Owners Vote?

Fall Line
posted: 04/15/2001

Here's a way for ski towns to get rid of 'us' vs. 'them' divisiveness.

Some 225 years have elapsed since angry Boston burghers jettisoned sacks of tea into their harbor to protest taxation without representation. Is there an argument left? Any resident-full- or part-time-who pays taxes should have the right to vote. If Paul Revere owned a condo at Loon Mountain today, he'd jump on his horse to vote on budgets affecting roads, parks and hospitals.

Second-home owners deserve better than to be treated as discarded Florida chads. Barring them from voting only perpetuates the divisiveness of "us" vs. "them" often found in ski towns. Gratitude is in short supply when locals harbor a grudge against outsiders ("turkeys") who pay taxes that subsidize schools and community services. "Denying second-home owners the vote," says Terry Minger, former Vail town manager and head of the Denver-based Center for Resource Management, "ensures that they won't have community interest and commitment. They're stakeholders and they belong at the table."

OK, maybe they shouldn't vote on the school budget. But on everything else-recreation, fire protection, hospitals and roads-their interest in community improvement and a good environment ought to be as enlightened as any local's. Besides, folks who buy property in a ski town are normally attracted to the scenic setting, the opportunity for recreation, the culture and spirit of the place...qualities that originally drew primary residents. Second-home owners want to sustain those values.

Here's a solution: Whistler, B.C.-arguably North America's best planned ski community-limits each second home to one vote in local elections, and allows a write-in ballot. Few resort towns extend such suffrage to second-home owners, but that could change with lawsuits making their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, any property owner can vote in a local election by switching primary residence. Your vote cast in Mount Doe village usually counts more than one cast in New York or L.A.

Armed with the responsibility to vote intelligently, second-home owners will become better educated on resort issues. And that will be good for the whole community. Second-home owners should be integrated, not segregated.

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