Okay, after the IBM pun in the headline, the Bill Gates photo may be a little over-the-top. Oddly enough, though, during the applicant’s presentation to the Planning Commission, one photo of exterior stonework examples that may be used on Vista Point showed the same treatment as used on one of Bill Gates’ homes! (Photo courtesy IBM)
Vista Point, that is.
During its first regular meeting after a rather lengthy break from Suite Z, Mammoth Lakes Planning Commissioners hit the dais running, as it were, spending most of their agenda on a public hearing prior to final consideration of a Vesting Tentative Tract Map and Use Permit Application for Vista Point.
The proposed project, a fractional/wholly-owned condominium and mixed-use development, will eventually occupy the space at the corner of Berner Street and Forest Trail. Assuming it progresses to its envisioned conclusion, Vista Point will have 101 rooms in 28 units, contained within a 34,000 square-foot area that will also house 60 undergound parking spaces, a rooftop pool, owner’s lounge, a pedestrian bridge and foot access to the nearby Village at Mammoth. It will also be home to a handful of businesses, including presumably some tenants already on site, such as Mammoth Brewing Company and a taekwondo studio.
Falling under the Town’s “Specific Lodging” designation, Vista Point is, according to a staff report, consistent with zoning that accomodates uses such as lodges, bed & breakfasts and Euro-style inns, and so on. The fractional “resort lodge” part of the project is also permitted within the zone’s list of approved uses.
In case you’re not familiar with “vesting,” basically what it means is that an applicant can request a “vesting” tract map as opposed to a standard tentative one, which gives subdividers the right to proceed with a development that is already in substantial compliance with the standards in place at the time the map is deemed complete. “Vesting,” however, doesn’t apply to fees, meaning the applicant — in this case Mammoth Specialty Lodging LLC — will still pay any applicable development impact and other fees that are in force at the time the developer applies for a building permit.
During applicant remarks, Vista Point representative Dana Severy said he thought the project “meets or, in most cases, exceeds Town standards.” Emphasizing the Town’s stated “feet-first” goals, he added it’s intended to “make the pedestrian paramount.” Project architect John Ashworth of San Franciso-based Bull Stockwell Allen said this has been the idea from the very start, taking into account the project’s proximity to the new Ski Back Trail and the Village at Mammoth with its gondola.
Ashworth also said that sustainability is major part of Vista Point, going for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, with its sights set on Gold level, though he allowed that designation may be affected by code compliance. “You have to look at innovative technology to get Gold LEED points, but sometimes those and code don’t go hand in hand,” Ashworth said. Nonetheless, features such as ground-source geothermal heating (with waste heat possibly used for snowmelt), low-reflective glass and Energy-Star appliances are all part of the plan.
In terms of the geothermal aspect, Severy said the project owns the site’s underlying water and mineral rights.
One part that isn’t “green” per se, but is still EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approved is a single wood-burning fireplace, allowed under the North Village Specific Plan, to be located in the owner’s lounge. Severy said that the main lobby was a consideration early on, but the team decided that the lounge area seemed more like the facility’s “social hub.”
The General Plan doesn’t permit new wood-burning fireplaces, but Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw said that the way the project is set up, the Town is able to navigate between the G.P. and the Town’s air quality regulations.
As to Affordable Housing, a somewhat controversial topic for just about any development in town these days, Associate Planner Pam Kobylarz’s staff report said the applicant has applied for an alternate housing mitigation plan, opting not to provide housing on-site.
Mammoth Lakes Housing Executive Director Pam Hennarty further advised the Commission that other than submitting the application for an off-site affordable housing mitigation plan, the developer hasn’t brought any specific plan forward as of yet. “We are, however, working with them to get at least half the housing within the area of the [North Village] specific plan,” Hennarty added.
Atypical of a development in process, Vista Point drew a surprising lack of opposition … none at the Wednesday meeting in fact. Of course, that could well be attributed to a very apparent effort by the developer to bear in mind the town’s historic sensitivity to height, density and footprint.
No part of the building is set to go above 50 feet, with more than half the property coming in at 40 feet or less in height. It hit approved density at 101 rooms, with no variance requested. And as if that weren’t enough, SL zoning permits maximum lot coverage of 60% … Vista Point’s proposed coverage: 49%, which staff said leaves “the remainder of the site undisturbed to the greatest extent possible.”
Public comment drew several statements of support for Vista Point. Century 21 Owner/President Larry McKee called the project’s design “incredible,” adding his opinion that the private residence-mixed use application, and what he said is shaping up to be “attractive pricing,” could amount to a “great stimulus to get things happening on the east side [of town].”
Century 21’s Pete Maw, said he was “blown away” by the project. “It’s smaller, relatively, but I’ve never seen anything like it here,” Maw said. “It’s ingenious, not just the same old thing in a new location. It’s a brand new thing in a new location!”
Local business owner Robert Schaubmayer, who has property adjacent to the site, added his support, saying he has hopes that Vista Point “will do wonders for the Forest Trail corner.”
The only public comment addressing a specific came from Bruce Woodward, who wasn’t in opposition, but suggested a detailed examination of the Town’s provisions for determining the easement needed for the pedestrian crossing to the Village. Town Planner Peter Bernasconi said there is a 20-foot easement that’s been retained, but Wardlaw said he will still need to go back and cross-check the Development Agreement to be sure the correct language is in place.
Commissioners were also wild about the project. “We should celebrate and applaud what you’ve done here,” lauded Commissioner Sharon Clark. “When can you break ground?” Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney asked rhetorically.
With Rhonda Duggan abstaining (citing conflicts due to her employment the nearby property owner Mammoth Mountain Ski Area), the Commission voted 4-0 to approve the project’s tract map and use permit applications, with some minor language changes agreed to by the Commission, staff and the applicant. No word yet on when the project will actually break ground, but the single-phase is expected to take 18 months to complete once the first shovel is in the dirt.