Posted on 09 April 2010.
Old Mammoth Place clears Council hurdle
During his first term as a Mammoth Lakes Town Councilmember, I gave Skip Harvey the nickname ‘41.’ It wasn’t a reference to any similarities Skip may have to our nation’s 41st President George H.W. Bush. Rather, it was because Skip often found himself on the wrong side of every Council decision made by a 4-1 vote.
On Wednesday night, Harvey returned to his roots. This time, however, he only lost 3-1 because Jo Bacon couldn’t participate due to a conflict of interest.
Does that make him Herbert Hoover?
The vote in question was over a district zoning amendment (DZA) for Old Mammoth Place.
Council voted to uphold a 4-1 Planning Commission decision to grant the DZA.
The most controversial part of the DZA was the part about measurement of height.
Though Council had initially approved (in June of last year) a maximum height for the site of 55’, site considerations and an architectural “oversight” prompted the developer, Jim Demetriades, to request an additional 9.5’ of height for some proposed buildings.
Mayor McCarroll and Councilmembers Sugimura and Eastman accepted the oversight. “The applicant’s already made plenty of sacrifices,” said Eastman.
MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory added that the plan is and has always been for five stories and a parking structure. Without a change in the height calculation, you’d have a project whose first floor would literally be underground.
Harvey didn’t care for the rationalizations. “This is about a manmade structure dominating the landscape,” he said. “This project will be 30 to 40 feet higher than surrounding properties … I need to show the people of this community I take our General Plan seriously.”
An appeal of the Old Mammoth Place project by Kirk Stapp is on Council’s April 21 agenda.
Will Kieser be permanente?
Woe be to the economist who gets inserted into the local political debate.
Such is the fate of Walter Kieser, a Principal in the consulting firm of Economic and Planning Systems, Inc. based out of Berkeley.
Kieser is the economist who’s been charged with the task of evaluating the Town’s amended DIF (development impact fee) and housing mitigation schedules.
A Town Council vote on these items is expected at Council’s April 21 regular meeting.
At a Mammoth Lakes Housing (MLH) meeting on Monday, Town Council candidate and MLH Board member Kirk Stapp lambasted Kieser’s work. “The man doesn’t seem to know his business,” said Stapp.
At the very least, said Stapp, he doesn’t know protocol.
What Stapp was alluding to are the now infamous two “memos.”
In the first memo, sent out Friday, April 2, Kieser writes, “An aggregate burden for DIFs in the range of 5% [of total construction cost] is a reasonable target … at this point, the proposed DIF 2010 fee schedule combined with the interim affordable housing in lieu fee and other agency fees will probably fall within this limit.”
This memo was written to Mammoth Lakes Housing Exec. Director Pam Hennarty. She then disseminated it to the entire Housing Board.
In memo #2, sent out about three hours before Monday’s MLH meeting, Kieser distances himself from memo #1. Upon further reflection, he writes, “In Mammoth Lakes at the present time, market conditions are such that little to nothing can be built even with no fee burdens … the fee burdens, even at the substantially reduced amounts, remain an issue.”
As Stapp pointed out, crying conspiracy, Kieser sent out the second memo to only Hennarty and Board members Rob Clark, Neil McCarroll and Jim Smith.
“Well, that was a mistake,” McCarroll said.
“Are we paying him for it [the second memo]?” asked Stapp.
“I didn’t ask for it,” replied Clark.
A feisty Kieser (“I don’t want to get caught in the crossfire. This is stupid.”) effectively parsed the memos during a CFFC (Capital Facilities Funding Committee) meeting on Wednesday.
Basically, the first memo was written using a sales assumption of $850,000 per unit which doesn’t conform to current reality.
Estimated (revised) fees were calculated at $45,000, or 5.3% of the assumed sales price. Unfortunately, the average price point in Mammoth had plunged from $890,000 in 2005 to $554,000 in 2009.
Jim Smith also believes “other” fees outside of DIF and housing were estimated at too low a figure.
So instead of DIF burden being in the range of 5%, that burden, even with reductions, appears like it may be in double digits.
But as Housing Director Hennarty points out, Kieser says no one will build anyway right now at any number, so why change anything? “We should stick with what we’ve got and when it turns around and [economic pro formas] works, it works [and developers will build].”
In any event, she said our current housing ordinance requires 10% inclusionary workforce housing units on-site. “So why are we talking about the fee so much?”
Ring my Bell-Shaped Parcel
Town Council voted to amend the General Plan zoning of the “Bell-Shaped Parcel,” changing its designation from resort to “open space.” The item was put forth by Mayor Neil McCarroll and Councilmember Wendy Sugimura.
John Walter, speaking for the Advocates for Mammoth, said he recommended the action highly. “We tried to have our cake and eat it too, but it didn’t work out that way,” Walter said, referring to attempts to establish a conservation easement in exchange for cash.
Roughly two-thirds of the parcel’s 16 acres, not all of it contiguous, make up a wetland conservation area. Council member Skip Harvey said he hopes the remainder will, in its new context, turn into a “benefit for the town” as a park, entertainment venue and holiday/community event gathering spot.
Not everyone was so keen on the proposed change. Council member John Eastman said people have questions about Council “making these types of decisions for the community that impacts them directly,” adding that the move will bind this and future Councils. Eastman went on to assert that, given the parcel has a potential financial value in the millions of dollars, “the citizens should decide by voting.”
Eastman stuck to his guns, the lone holdout in a 4-1 vote.
Not only is the housing affordable, but they make the escalator to the second floor out of snow. (Photo:Geisel)
Town, Intrawest reach deal
The Town of Mammoth and Intrawest reached a deal last month regarding the remainder of Intrawest’s obligations to the Town from several projects.
Intrawest will pay $575,000 to satisfy these obligations. It will also deed-restrict the Kitzbuhel apartments on Berner Street.
The Kitzbuhel, however, is currently not occupied and reportedly has mold issues.
Assistant Town Manager Karen Johnston says the estimates range from $700,000 to $1 million as to what it would cost to make the place livable.
And yet, as part of the deal, the Town agrees not to pursue any nuisance issues regarding the boarded-up property for a period of 10 years.
Mind you, the Kitzbuhel was supposed to supply affordable housing to meet the requirements for three projects built in the ‘90s.
As Housing Board member Kirk Stapp says, “With this deal, it’ll be 22 years and we still won’t have any housing.”
On the plus side, with Intrawest teetering near bankruptcy, Johnston was pretty happy getting what she did in the deal.
“We tried to get interest [too], but … it wasn’t going to get there,” she said.
MMSA extends season
Mammoth Mountain will extend its operations for daily skiing and riding to July 4.
MMSA has received over 41 feet (493 inches) of snowfall this season including more than three feet of snow in the first week of April. With a current base depth of 11 feet to 15 feet of snow, Mammoth is experiencing the best snowfall season since the record breaking 2005/06 season, when over 50 feet of snow fell on the mountain.
This will mark the eleventh time that Mammoth Mountain has been open for skiing and riding on the Fourth of July within the last 31 years of operation.
“We have the best April snow conditions I’ve seen in my 32 years on the mountain,” said CEO Rusty Gregory. “With as much snow as we have, our customers would riot if we closed down as early as the other ski resorts. Keeping the mountain open until July 4 is what ‘Playing Big’ is all about.”
We’re sad to report the passing of longtime local and Crowley Lake resident Cary Shibley, 38, owner of Spoiled Rotten Pet Salon in Mammoth earlier this week. As of press time, the family was in the process of preparing a formal statement. (We’ll get that to you in print and on thesheetnews.com as soon as it’s available.) One thing is certain: numerous friends and clients were very fond of her. A Facebook tribute page set up Wednesday (Spoiled Rotten/Carrie Shibley) has been steadily filling with notes of love, memories and condolences to her family from locals, many of whom have known Shibley for much of her life.