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Elizabeth voters will rule on lodging fee

April 3 election to include question despite current lack of hotels or motels

Posted

When Elizabeth residents vote in the April 3 municipal election, in addition to choosing a mayor and two members of the town board of trustees, they will be deciding whether a proposed hotel/motel room fee becomes law.

Grace Erickson, town public information officer, said the members of the board of trustees voted unanimously Jan. 23 to place the room fee issue on the April ballot.

“We know of no plans to build a hotel or motel in our city at this time, but the trustees want the room fee in place when it does happen,” she said. “A similar measure was on the ballot in 2016 and failed. We believe it wasn't well received because we didn't do a good job of getting out the word about why the trustees wanted this law passed.”

The final 2016 vote count showed 435 residents voted no while 255 voted to approve the measure.

Rachael Welch, Elizabeth mayor pro tem, said the proposal is a measure to look ahead to the future, which has been discussed by the trustees for several years.

“Just about every community has a room fee in place. So we feel public lodging will be built in Elizabeth in the future and we would like to have voter approval for the room fee provision in advance of that construction,” she said. “We want to stress this is not a tax residents will be required to pay. It will be paid by those who stay in the rooms of the hotel or motel when one is built in our city.”

She said Elizabeth is not a home rule municipality, so the proposal can't make the fee a percentage. By state law that governs statutory municipalities, the lodging fee has to specify a specific amount that will never change. The fee in this proposal is $6.50 a day per room.

Welch said a hotel or motel would be of large benefit to Elizabeth. She said not only would it provide room accommodations, it could attract conventions and large meetings and would help promote tourism in the area.

The mayor pro tem said, if the measure passes, plans are to use the money generated by the room fee to benefit the community.

“When the proposal passes and we have hospitality accommodations, the trustees have said they wish to use money from the room tax to promote tourism and enhance amenities like parks and trails,” she said. “Of course those plans are on hold until a hospitality accommodation like a hotel or motel is built to generate the room fees.”

Elizabeth resident Juan Martinez said this is the first he has heard about the proposal but he didn't have a problem with it.

“I probably would vote for this now that I know it will be paid by room residents and not by Elizabeth residents,” he said.

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