August 25 Letters to the Editor

Editor:

Does anyone besides the Marfa School Board understand their recent unanimous “round of applause” (same they gave for the million-dollar track), as they voted to saddle local residents with a $57 million debt over 30 years (til 2052), already owing $6 million for 14 years more (til 2036), with a steadily dropping student population AND a dramatic drop in town numbers (Census 2020)?

Seems like the hushed tones of a funeral home would have been more appropriate.

Why not just keep paying to repair? At $279,000/year (superintendent’s number, BBS 8/4/22) we can spread that same $57 million over 204 ⅓ years (through 2226)!

Am I missing something here in the math?

If not, please vote NO on this school bond, BUT, steel yourself for the inevitable emotional attacks on our viewpoint, such as, “Don’t you care about the kids? We have to do this for the children,” heard almost two decades ago.

Finally, if you believe school building projects proceed flawlessly, once the money’s been voted, please look to our next-door neighbors in Alpine.

Sincerely,

Steve Seegers, M.D.

Almost 30 years in Marfa

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Editor,

Not all STRs are created equal. While our primary home base is Fort Worth, we own vacant land in Marfa because we love the town. We subscribe to this paper. Donate to Chinati. 

Donate to Marfa Public Radio. Visit as often as possible. Marfa and its preservation matters to us. We have plans to build a single-family home in Marfa. It will be a part-time STR. So the article this week about STRs struck a little bit of a chord as I read it. This is seemingly a hot topic everywhere these days –– even here in Fort Worth. Many very valid concerns were mentioned, and one I am obsessively conscious of is the depletion of affordable housing.

The concept of STRs taking away housing inventory is a critical one in my mind. I happen to be a real estate broker and so am very aware of the market not only in the DFW area, but I watch trends even out in Marfa. Again, because Marfa matters. But DO NOT take this to mean I am against STRs.

People absolutely must be conscious of separating existing housing inventory that is being converted to STRs AND those (like myself) who add housing stock by building and adding more inventory. I could have bought a house a few years ago and flipped it into an STR (believe me, it would have been much easier), but I did not. My personal belief is if you are going to come into a community, you need to give to it, not take from it. Thus why I bought an empty lot to construct something new on.

So I implore the citizens and city government to first ask, “Is this the STR conversion of an existing home or new construction that is adding to the tax base and creating jobs during the whole construction process?” Please don’t lump them all into the “bad” category of overrunning affordable housing for locals. Not all STRs are bad.

Cordially,

Graham Brizendine

Fort Worth

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To the Editor:

This letter is in response to one published last week in The Big Bend Sentinel, and I applaud the editor of the Mountain Dispatch for not publishing a letter with so many factual errors.

The most egregious of these errors was the statement that the new community center was purchased with hotel tax funds. No HOT funds were used in the purchase; the writers of the letter are aware of this fact but merely seem to want to sow dissension within the community.

Currently, the other evacuation facilities available to the community are totally inadequate for any long-term emergency. The gymnasiums at the schools have been used in the past on a short-term basis, because they were the only public facilities available. However, these are not adequate for the long term: there are no food service facilities, and it is not appropriate to mix educational activities with people who are seeking shelter from a disaster, at least not when there is an appropriate county facility available, as there now is.

It is realistic to not expect “charitable foundations to fund a project of unknown costs,” but this is not how the process works. The point of creating a committee of citizens to determine the use and needs of the facility will lead to decisions as to programs and proper use of the space. At that point costs can be determined and the county can reach out to friends in the foundation community who have helped in the past and will continue to do so in the future, as demonstrated by the $75,000 grant from the Permian Basin Area Foundation for the initial purchase.

It is a sad commentary that the writers of this letter would have the community believe that this new facility is designed for single use. Why can’t it be a community center, convention center and shelter as needed –– a multi-use facility? And why will it not be an economic stimulus that will encourage growth in the food service and accommodations? Why assume that the possibility of bringing visitors to Fort Davis will not increase economic growth?

Larry Francell

Fort Davis

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Dear Editor,

That article by Sam Karas on Bison in BBNP was interesting, entertaining and very informative — loved the interview with Bruce.

VERY Impressive overall reporting! 

But, the mystery remains!

J P Price

Wycombe, Pennsylvania

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Dear Editor,

I appreciated seeing the article last week (8/18/22) about the community meeting at the USO Building regarding Marfa’s hotel occupancy tax (HOT) and short-term rentals (STRs). In a perfect Marfa, everyone would have an affordable home. We know that is not the case, but there are concrete steps that could be taken by the community to help correct a trend in STRs that has created an untenable situation in Marfa’s long-term, once affordable, rental market. As the owner of a long-term rental property in Marfa, a former resident, a tax-payer, a former school board trustee, and a former Presidio County Appraisal District board member, I have a few suggestions.

  1. The City of Marfa should significantly limit the number of STRs allowed in Marfa. Conduct a lottery and let anyone who is interested participate. Only those properties picked can be rented short term. 
  2. Limit the number of short-term rentals per individual or entity. 
  3. Raise the HOT on STRs such that it makes equal or more dollar sense for property owners to offer long-term rentals and de-incentivizes buyers from purchasing properties in Marfa solely for the purpose of turning them into STRs. Do not raise the tax on hotels and motels. 
  4. Marfa ISD and the City of Marfa should make their tax rates as low as possible so that long-term rental property owners are not forced to raise rents or sell. Lower tax rates would also help current homeowners stay in their homes and not sell to out-of-towners looking to turn them into STRs. 
  5. Increase (again) homestead exemptions for homeowners.  

Apologies to all those in the STR business, but people are hurting. It’s time to speak up and take action. 

Katherine Shaughnessy

Boise, Idaho


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