If the Mammoth Lakes Planning and Economic Development Commission made one thing abundantly clear at its regular meeting Wednesday in Suite Z of the Minaret Mall, it is this: Mammoth needs to start prioritizing code enforcement, unless it wishes to re-brand itself as a World Class Destination Flea Market.
Two issues discussed Wednesday touched upon lack of code enforcement, both historical and current.
The historical issue cropped up during the hearing on a variance request made by AT&T Mobility.
AT&T wishes to install wireless communication antennas on the roof of the Shilo Inn. The antennas would be housed in an enclosure.
The issue before the Town centered on mitigation measures it may wish to require in exchange for the project’s height variance.
However, there is a sticking point, which it appeared, has nothing to do with the actual project.
Rather, it has to do with a 25-year old conditional-use permit (C.U.P.).
The 1988 C.U.P. issued to The Shilo mandated that the hotel use “textured concrete” on its exterior garage walls.
That job was never completed.
When this was discovered during the design review process for the current project, the Planning Commission suggested that perhaps the provisions of the C.U.P. could be updated to reflect current architecture. It wanted rock veneer vs. textured concrete.
The two bids for approximately 5,000-square feet of rock work came in at six figures.
AT&T Representatives insisted that such an expense was prohibitive, and would derail the project. They stated they were more than happy to fulfill Shilo’s 1988 promises as part of the condition of approval.
Planning Commissioner Dave Harvey said that’s like ordering a new Chevy and receiving a 25-year old model (although I can’t understand why anyone would have a problem with a 25-year old model).
As local resident Tom Cage testified to the Commission, “Get them [Shilo] into compliance first.” If you approve a variance and terms of approval today, he said, you’ll get the antenna and never get the work you’ve requested for 25 years.
Commissioners agreed. As Commissioner Rhonda Duggan pointed out, why would you invest so much time in this project knowing it’s been out of compliance for so long and that such compliance would ultimately need to be addressed.
Ultimately, the Commission voted to attach conditions to the variance that will force the proponent to satisfy past obligations before the antenna is operational. The project will go back to Design Review seeking a compromise solution.
The second discussion related to code enforcement involved a revisitation of the lingering signage, banner and tent sale phenomenon.
While the Town has codes on the books which regulate size and duration of signage and tent sales, these codes have been blatantly ignored for years.
Cage, who owns Mammoth Chevron, told a humorous tale about his own banners.
Chevron and Vons have launched a cooperative marketing effort around gasoline sales, whereby you can obtain Vons Reward Points via gas purchases at Chevrons. So corporate sends a bunch of banners. Part of the agreement is that Cage is supposed to hang these banners for a year.
But hanging such banners for extended periods is a violation of the Town’s sign ordinance. Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney asked Cage to take them down a few weeks ago. He complied.
Days later, a Chevron corporate rep arrived in town and asked, “Where are the banners?”
Given the number of illegal banners around town, Cage didn’t really feel like he could do anything other put them back up.
Tenney suggested that we have town-wide sales three times a year. You can put up whatever tents or banners you want. But that’s it. This would also simplify enforcement for a town that doesn’t have a lot of staff time for that. Wave Rave’s Steve Klassen heartily agreed with Tenney’s proposal.
Klassen has recently been subscribing to the old adage that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. He’s had his own Shred Sale banner and tent up outside his Main Street storefront for weeks.
Klassen testified that he told the Town he would leave it up until he was forced to do otherwise. As he stated in a text Thursday morning: “What I am doing is an act of civil disobedience, with one simple goal, to make one point – to get our local government to act as it is supposed to.”
Both Klassen and Cage acknowledged that while they are no fans of the garish tents and signs, that the “noise” created is a proven and effective tool.
Klassen said his sales have risen by double digits since he put his tent and banner up.
Across the street, Cage said Kittredge Sports, bereft of Shred Sale signage, has only experienced low single-digit sales growth in August.
“I’m sick of Mammoth being perpetually on sale” bemoaned Commissioner Fernie.
The Commission took no action on the topic, so Mammoth’s growing reputation as a combination Tent City/Discount Warehouse is secure … for now.