As the Town of Mammoth Lakes works toward completing the handful of remaining Neighborhood District Plans (NDP), the one involving the Sierra Valley Sites (SVS) recently moved forward. On March 23, during a special morning Planning Commission meeting, Town Senior Planner Ellen Clark outlined the proposed framework for the SVS NDP, including its boundary, sphere of influence and guiding principles.
Clark said the General Plan doesn’t contain much in the way of guidance in terms of principles in this sort of district, which is unusual compared to the rest of the NDPs completed so far. SVS is a purely residential neighborhood, whereas the other NDPs have also had some sort of business or commercial component. The Town “borrowed” many of the principles developed for the Shady Rest area, which Clark said has many of the same characteristics in common with SVS.
“We want to get all the major issues brought out in front of the project – storm drain, previous studies on traffic, affordable housing issues, etc. – to make sure we know what we’re studying,” Clark said. She went on to elaborate that SVS residents appear to like the area the way it is to a large extent, including the lighting (or lack thereof), curvy streets, etc. They do seem to favor more traffic and pedestrian safety, but Clark acknowledged the solution could be complicated. There might be, she indicated, unintended consequences of rerouting traffic, which would negatively compromise the character of the neighborhood.
Recent increases in affordable housing and related density during the past several years have been perceived as major contributors to the traffic issues, Clark said. Addressing the affordable housing issue, SVS resident Gary Small commented, “Workforce lives everywhere in town … we just don’t want all the workforce housing; I’d like to see us get away from labeling SVS as ‘the workforce neighborhood.’”
On a similar tangent, Larry Johnston, District 1 Supervisor said that based on a recent walk-through of SVS, the residents he spoke with seemed interested in exploring down-zoning from multifamily housing to single-family, where single-family homes are already on the property. “It seems there’s enough MFH zoning in the neighborhood already,” he said.
Other key issues: storm drainage, noise, trash removal. Lesser issues included easements that would directly address the potential for interconnected trails. The main topic, especially pressing given the dumping of snow going on outside, was snow storage.
Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney raised code compliance flags when it came to garages that have been rented out and people parking in what are supposed to be spaces for snow storage. Small also brought up problems caused by some property owners who clear their entire frontage of snow, which he said doesn’t leave enough space for snow storage. “Our [snowplow] guys are gonna put snow wherever they can,” Public Works Director Ray Jarvis told the Commission.
Jennifer Halferty suggested that part of the problem could be dumpsters located just off the street. Some vehicles are parked on the public right of way next to the snow stakes, which keeps the Town from being able to blow snow there. Halferty said she’s not sure what the specific setbacks are off the street, but that space is being challenged for snow storage use.
Mammoth Lake Fire Protection District Fire Marshal Thom Heller discussed ongoing work bringing older propane tanks into compliance with current setbacks. He also talked about accidents, which he said has led to seven responses in five years, mostly at night. “It appears darkness played a part in the accidents,” Heller said, and added that part of the traffic solution could involve a combination of snow moving and lighting changes. According to Heller, all but one of those responses occurred during winter. (Staff plans to compile citations and accident reports in SVS and include them in the framework package to be presented to Town Council next month.)
Heller said parking in roadway and emergency access routes has led to ticketing and towing, but is more importantly a health and safety issue, as are massive berms that block secondary emergency egress through windows on lower and even some upper floors. Keeping windows clear, he said, is an owner responsibility.
Moving utilities underground, which was mentioned during the previous SVS public discussion on Feb. 23, could help with safety and servicing, according to Mary Shore, who told commissioners that trees and snow have fallen on lines and caused several power outages.
Also discussed: a currently vacant Mammoth Mountain-owned parcel at the end of Chaparral that’s being eyed for employee housing, whether it would be prudent to add the Bell-Shaped Parcel to the SVS sphere of influence, and whether the NDP’s proper name is Sierra Valley SITES or ESTATES? (It’s currently being referred to internally as just Sierra Valley.)
Clark said that no major zoning changes are expected, and Chair Tony Barrett suggested that the SVS Codes, Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) be consistently reviewed as the NDP moves through the process.
The Commission approved staff’s recommendation to forward the framework to Town Council for more work during its April 6 meeting at 6 p.m. Both Clark and Barrett reminded the public that more work on the NDP is yet to come. Also a Spanish-language public meeting is being planned for mid-April to pull in comments from the considerable Hispanic community located within SVS.Share Email This Post