Mammoth’s Planning Commission wants code update sooner rather than later
Mammoth Lakes Planning Commissioners didn’t have much on the agenda Wednesday for their last regular meeting of 2009, but one item certainly got their dander up. What was supposed to be a routine Zoning Code Update update from Town staff quickly gelled into a message from the Planning Commission to Town Council: “Don’t put this off.”
And that message was borne out of word from Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw that Town Council may delay completion of the code update in favor of moving up other items as it sets priorities in the Town staff workplan.
Staff’s plan calls for the update to go through the code chapter by chapter, put in staff commments along with user group comments and have the finished product in front of commissioners by Dec. 2010 … one year from now.
Commissioners started talking about the holdup with changes to the sign ordinance, a topic that’s been kicked around for years, but when they heard the proposed timeline, that gave rise to a larger discussion of whether the Town can afford to wait that long. Or longer. According to Wardlaw, that deadline may get pushed to first quarter 2011, which the Commission didn’t care for at all.
“We’re looking at a review of the General Plan in 2012, and if we won’t get a Zoning Code update until sometime in 2011, that’s too long,” observed Commissioner Tony Barrett.
Barrett went on to opine that the General Plan and current zoning code aren’t in sync, a situation he considers a serious impediment to Mammoth’s finanical and business communities. “Development dollars follow the path of least resistance. When the credit markets free up, we need to be ready, or we lose,” Barrett stated. “Don’t put this off. That would be a mistake.”
Commissioners wondered why even simple fix-its haven’t been accomplished yet. Take the sign ordinance. Commissioners like the North Village District’s ordinance. Why hasn’t this been cross-applied by now to the Town as a whole.
Maybe they won’t wait for Staff at all. “We have the ability to escalate some things. Maybe we need to just move it forward,” said Chair Rhonda Duggan.
In any case, the Commission was generally adamant that the Zoning Code was a high priority, and want Council to keep it near, if not at, the top of its priorities for the work plan.
“It’s frustrating when those opposed to development say, ‘Just make it meet existing code,’ when the code isn’t consistent with the General Plan,” stated Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney. She went on to add her take that parts of the code are at least outdated or otherwise flawed, and in some cases potentially illegal.
Accelerate certain parts of it if necessary, they said, but whatever it takes, Commissioners made it clear that they would like to see the update done by staff’s Dec. 2010 projected date, if not sooner.
Wardlaw wasn’t in opposition to the Commission’s focus on the Zoning Code, and in fact took their point on several issues, particularly with respect to the timing of the code update relative to the General Plan review, which isn’t state mandated, but is normally done by most communities.
He did, however, tell The Sheet later that he’d like to see all the Neighborhood District Plans completed perhaps just ahead of the code update. Wardlaw opined he thought having those in place would also help pave clearer paths for a new zoning code, and would be equally as important to the development community, as well as potential investors and lenders.
During a study session later that afternoon, Council met with several Town department heads to review the current work plan and hear thoughts on potential changes in priorites. With only an hour to spend, listening to department heads prattle on about the importance of their pet projects was about all they could accomplish. Therefore not a lot of movement on the zoning code issue (or anything else) was observed, with the exception perhaps of Councilmember Jo Bacon’s recommendation that ongoing work on the Trails Master Plan not be further delayed. Bacon voiced concerns that much of that work is tied to funding that augments the General Fund and has timelines attached that thought can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.