Stapp’s open letter to Council on how the Town’s being duped
The community is being duped. What are you going to do about it?
Any owner of a property requesting density upgrades must submit a financial analysis demonstrating that the added “incentive” density is proportionate to “community benefits.”
Once a request is made, the Town’s staff can then request an independent, third party review or verification to validate the financial analysis submitted by a developer.
In respect to Old Mammoth Place (OMP), the developer’s financial analysis concluded that the Town will receive $26.2 million in community benefits (plazas-open space, mid-block connector, retail/restaurant conference facilities and underground parking) in exchange for 244 units in additional density and the exemption of $6.5 million in DIF, affordable housing and art fees.
Aphorism: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
Red-flag #1: Why is additional commercial space considered a community benefit when there’s empty commercial space all over town?
Red-flag #2: Why is the Town accepting the snow removal responsibility for a mid-block connector of non-standard width? What will this cost? What will other increased service requirements cost?
Red-flag #3: Why wasn’t the $6.5 million in exempted fees and its impacts on the Town’s budget analyzed?
The author of the Town’s third party, independent review begins his report by stating that his report reflects a “technical collaboration” with the developer’s financial consultant and that he “unhesitatingly” finds the developer’s report to be a good basis for the Town’s decision-making.
Red-flag #4: How can collaboration produce an independent, third party report?
Red-flag #5: Where is the analysis of potential economic “benefits” to the owner due to density upgrades?
The OMP consultant states at the beginning of his report: “… the owner of a property requesting density upgrades must submit a financial analysis to the Town that estimates the value of community benefits generated by the proposed project relative to the potential economic benefits accruing to the owner as a result of the density upgrades.” In other words, community benefits are to be economically weighted against the economic value of increased density. The developer’s consultant then goes on to use estimated construction costs of proposed community benefits as the basis of his analysis without identifying what portion of those costs would have been required anyway.
Red-flag #6: The developer’s consultant further suggests that “Other Benefits” may be considered when evaluating OMP: additional TOT, property taxes, and sales taxes. Projections, using 60 percent room occupancy, show that OMP could generate additional revenues to the Town of more than $1.5 million annually.
The Town’s consultant agrees and suggests that OMP will be a cash cow for the Town’s general fund.
Neither the Town’s consultant nor Town staff point out that the Town’s annual occupancy rate for the past decade ranges between 36 percent to 38 percent, which suggests that if OMP achieves a 60 percent occupancy rate, many of its guests will be coming from other lodging facilities.
Red-flag #7: Didn’t the North Old Mammoth Road District Plan require dedication of Old Mammoth Road’s right-of-way, a mid-block connector, green features, as well as underground parking? Neither the Town’s consultant nor Town staff point out that the need for the right-of-way was so that tour buses could unload on Old Mammoth Road without blocking traffic or the Town’s shuttle buses.
Red-flag #8: Neither the Town’s consultant nor Town staff point out that the Town has revenue producing properties and revenue subsidized properties. For example, a home bought for $200,000 in 1990 doesn’t pay TOT taxes or sales taxes. If the home’s property taxes are $2,500 in 2010, approximately 6 percent of those taxes or $150 will flow into the Town’s general fund to support snow removal, recreation, public safety, etc. These low tax properties are being subsidized by revenue producing properties.
The Town’s consultant concludes his report: “The lower development impact fee schedule and lower housing mitigation requirement will accelerate the timing of development or may even provide the positive tipping point of feasibility even with improved market conditions.” Apparently, the Town’s cash cow can be used to backfill the DIF, affordable housing and art fees which were traded away.
I strongly support the redevelopment of the Roadway Inn and Ocean Harvest properties. But when I’m told that in the middle of a national recession where billions have been lost in bogus lending schemes that the capital markets won’t invest in Mammoth solely because DIF, affordable housing and art fees make projects infeasible, my Red-flags begin to wave.
Old Mammoth Place model kit
I read in The Sheet that [Jim] Demetriades has expressed, “… surprise at the lack of public comment …” Can I make a bad parody of a lighbulb joke out of this?
Question: How many locals does it take to express opposition to Old Mammoth Place before Demetriades is no longer surprised at the lack of public comment?
Answer: It doesn’t matter how many people express opposition to Old Mammoth Place because they have their fingers in their ears making mouth noises so they can’t hear you.
I have a way to resolve this mess without adding significantly to the total number of meetings — 56 at last count.
Demetriades commissions two scale models of what he wants to build. Real models not computer models. Computer models are convenient for some things but never give a sense of scale.
The models should accurately include the structures and forest in the surrounding area. One model is anything Demetriades wants. If he wants a 40-story high-rise or a monstrous ziggurat that covers the entire parcel, build the model. Anything goes.
The second model is exactly and precisely within the limits for that parcel as set down in the General Plan, including density, parking, heights, affordable and workforce units, everything within the prescribed limits in the General Plan.
Then put both models in Suite Z for one month. People come and look at the model and if they are registered voters, they tell the Notary Public that is sitting in Suite Z what their choice is — or neither. Each registered voter can change their minds as often as they want, but they can only ultimately make one choice. They choose either the Demetriades proposal as reflected by the model or the proposal that is completely within the General Plan limits or neither.
After one month is over, the choice is made. Demetriades then can either build what the voters chose to be built or nothing. It’s simple, it’s fair and it reflects the will of the people, which is something that doesn’t seem to be happening.
In response to the letter, “Defining liberal” (The Sheet, March 20) …
For a “fair and balanced” understanding of the present robust political stage, in addition to the suggested books in the above-referenced letter, I would like to add the following: 1). “ Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism,” Ronald J. Pestritto; 2). “The Forgotten Man,” Amity Shlaes; 3) “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left;” Jonah Goldberg; “Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution,” Kevin RC Gutzman; and “Rules for Radicals,” Saul D. Alinsky.
One more thought. I believe the proper description for the antiquated “liberal” is “progressive.”
What’s with County employees running for public office?
Elizabeth Boyd wrote a letter to the editor last week asking the question, “What is it with former county employees running for Supervisor?” She mentioned Supervisor Hazard (retired former Deputy Sheriff), Renn Nolan (retired County Clerk, a formerly elected position) and me (candidate for District 1 Supervisor).
Ms. Boyd’s letter raised important points, and I hope she (and the community at large) will consider this response (along with a few corrections).
To answer her question, I think it is a lack of citizens wishing to step up to the plate. One of the needs for better government is to build opportunity for leadership growth. In most County communities, there are volunteer “Regional Planning Advisory Committees” or RPACs. They represent roughly 6,000 county residents in the various communities, from Walker to Chalfant and in between. These RPACs help build leaders. Indeed, the present District 3 Supervisor is a product of the June Lake RPAC (called the “CAC” in June Lake). Two of the District 4 Supervisor candidates are members of the Antelope Valley RPAC and the Mono Basin RPAC, respectively.
But 7,000 people, more than half the population of the County, have no RPAC. These 7,000 people are residents of the Town of Mammoth Lakes, who are part of Supervisorial Districts 1, 3 and 5. One of my propositions is to create a volunteer Town Advisory Committee, similar to RPACs, to provide input to County budget, planning and policy decisions; more importantly, to help build future leaders.
In addition to creating more public input and leadership development through a volunteer Town Advisory Committee, I will pursue a number of other important issues. Briefly, these include providing frugal and efficient budget oversight; saving taxpayer dollars through concerted energy conservation measures for all public facilities; adopting measures to help rejuvenate the construction sector of our economy; carefully analyzing large development projects for long term economic success and community “fit;” continuing to stabilize the recreation and tourism base; actively pursuing year-round sustainable jobs using a slow but steady diversification strategy such as geothermal, biomass, ground source heating, and solar technologies.
I would like to offer a few corrections to your letter: Although I played shortstop for a number of years on the “Out to Pasture” men’s softball team, I am not retired. In the 20 years I have lived here, I owned and operated a local private planning consulting business for over 10 years. I have worked for Mono County’s planning department for only the last 10 years and I am not eligible for post-retirement “Cadillac health benefits” that you mentioned. I simply don’t qualify.
You also urge retired former employees to do volunteer work and stay away from the “public trough.” I too believe that volunteer work is essential to a thriving community and for the past 20 years, I have volunteered in many community groups and organizations. I was a volunteer host at Mammoth Mountain. I was a board member and past President of the Trails Homeowners Association. I’m a supporter of the Mammoth Boosters. I belong to the Eastside Velo and the Sierra Cycling Foundation. I was a volunteer member and past Chairman of the Local Transportation Commission. And I am a long time volunteer, coach, board member, and for the past three years I was President of Mono County Little League. My family also has provided the Halloween Trails Haunted House for many, many years, and we have entered several creative floats in the annual July 4th parade. Volunteerism runs in my blood and, regardless whether I am elected, I will continue to be an active volunteer in our community.
In closing, although you do not live in District 1 I would very much appreciate your support and your continued input on this and other issues facing Mono County, as I truly have the public interest at heart. Please see my website www.johnstonforsupervisor.com or give me a call at 760-914-0826 if you have additional ideas to share.
Crunching ESUSD data
There has been a lot of fervor and angst surrounding the lack of money for the next ESUSD (Eastern Sierra Unified School District) school year. Hopefully we can attain some resolution which will not result in teacher layoffs.
However, I feel compelled to comment on the issue-wide use of poorly researched statistics, which people have been using as apparent justification for closure of certain schools, in particular the Eastern Sierra Academy (ESA). I have been doing some research, and as I am unable to substantiate their data, I feel these “facts” are being used irresponsibly to support closure of the ESA.
The local newspapers have published some of these statements:
Rachel Hansen, as stated in The Sheet, was “horrified to discover that the District was spending approximately $20,000 per student at ESA but only $12,000 per student at the other schools.”
Dave Murray was also quoted in The Sheet as saying “right now there are 3 teachers for the 15 students at ESA compared to 1 teacher per 25 students at Coleville High School.”
I checked the ESUSD SARC report cards online at www.esusd.org. The link to the SARC data is at the left side of the screen. According to a phone conversation with the ESUSD Finance Director, the two years posted, 2007-8 and 2008-9, represent the most current data available to the public online.
Here are some figures I obtained from that website for the high schools; Coleville HS, ESA and Lee Vining HS. (Please note that the “dollars spent per student” figures listed on the website lag by one year, but that is all that is available, and does show variation from year to year.)
Dollars spent per student
CHS ESA LVHS
2006/07 $13,399 $17,229 $21,377
2007/08 $19,771 $18,834 $20,837
Class Size (range)
2008/09 CHS ESA LVHS
10-16 6-13 7-11
2008/09 CHS ESA LVHS
70 24 52
2008/09 CHS ESA LVHS
7 4 7
Teacher to Child Ratio
(my calculation, based on above data)
2008/09 CHS ESA LVHS
1:10 1:6 1:7
At recent meetings there have been multiple calls for fairness within the District and accusations of favoritism for the smaller schools. It has been implied that the ESA gets preferential treatment from the District. I don’t see in these numbers where this is true.
Maybe fair would be an addition of P.E., music and art teachers at the ESA, so those children can also have the same exposure to those disciplines as do students at the other schools. Yes, I realize that comment is a bit sarcastic, but I am trying to point out that fairness can be viewed at multiple levels.
Moving beyond the demographic data, and of even more importance to me, are the API scores I saw within the SARC report card:
CHS ESA LVHS
2007/08 694 803 671
2008/09 734 866 623
Although each of the schools is doing well, these are the numbers that leave me unable to comprehend why ESUSD would consider closing the ESA. All of the schools have much to offer, but if you were most interested in academics, where might you send your child?
What would Bob Seger do?
I am a long time resident of Mammoth and will disclose right up front I am also a Main Street property owner. Over the years, the Town has floated many different versions of potential revisions to Main Street with the claimed purpose of making it more “vital,” more attractive to visitors and to rid the Town of the 9 lanes of asphalt (i.e.four for the frontage roads and 5 lanes for Main Street). However, the most recent attempt, funded and, in my opinion, pushed by the Mountain, is misplaced for so many reasons it is hard to set them all out in a letter.
First, under either of the plans being considered (i.e. the Greenway Plan or the Downtown Plan), a center median is being suggested. The Town, in its meeting, referred to places such as San Diego, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, where medians are used to beautify the town. While that may be great and one in Mammoth may also look beautiful during the summer months, what about during the winter months? The Town had no real answer as to what would happen with this huge (in the Greenway Plan) median during the winter. Will it simply look like a large open field covered in snow? Hardly any more beautiful than what we have now. And how much will it cost to maintain?
Second, the Town has for years been trying to take control of Main Street back from Caltrans. Such a push is a huge mistake. No matter how much money Caltrans gives the Town for maintenance and snow removal, eventually the funds will run out and the substantial cost of maintaining Main Street (all the way up to the Mountain) will then pose a huge municipal burden. If Caltrans was doing a poor job, then there may be a reason to take back control. But simply to take back control so that the Town can put a pretty plan down on paper makes no sense (due to funding constraints, private ownership of much of Main Street, etc., it is doubtful any plan with such huge changes will ever really be implemented).
Third, in the meetings I attended and heard reported (i.e. three) most of the residents did not want a gondola going up Main Street. Its 40-foot towers and cabs would be more of an eyesore than what we have now.
My opinion is that is what the Mountain wants and since this “plan” is really, no matter what the Town says, a Mountain idea, the Town will allow itself to be pushed (as happened when the Village was allowed to be built without parking) into something which the residents do not really want.
Fourth, both plans either eliminate or substantially reduce parking along Main Street (neither plan from what I saw or from what was presented has yet to establish where parking lots or structures would be located on Main Street, or where the funds would come from so the Town could acquire these parking areas). Reduction of parking would constitute a substantial detriment to the current Main Street business owners which, in turn, will be a further detriment to the town. If these businesses shut their doors, Main Street will hardly be revitalized.
Fifth, due to the many different property owners along Main Street, not to mention the fact that there are no funding sources to accomplish all the dreams put forward in the plans, it will be difficult, if not impossible (even over 20 years if there is to be no down zoning or “grandfathering” of existing uses, as promised by the Town) to change the complexion of Main Street to the way it looks under either plan. Thinking or saying otherwise is disingenuous.
Finally, if the Town, contrary to its public promises and assertions, decides to change the zoning along Main Street so as to eliminate parking or eliminate the current allowed uses, the Town will be faced with numerous lawsuits at an added expense to the Town. (The Town seems to only back down from unpopular ideas when it is forced to do so, i.e. the Redevelopment Lawsuit, the Airport EIR re: large commercial planes, etc.)
The above are just a few of the problems with either plan being presented by the Mountain (as noted above, it is NOT a Town-generated plan). Small, incremental changes would make more sense, be more affordable, obtain more support and allow Main Street to move forward.
It is great to plan for the future, but since the Town very often ignores “plans” which have been approved (i.e. how many times has the Planning Commission and Town Council approved a project which does not comply with the General Plan or even a specific plan for the particular location), to put forth a plan that has no real way of being implemented iroically puts a cloud on the property located along Main Street, and makes it impossible to really plan for the future. For example, does a developer make a plan based upon the fact that the access roads will be eliminated and the main road moved closer to the store frontage if such may not ever happen?
This particular “plan” is very different from the other area plans that have been implemented since (i) it is for a much larger area of Town (five times larger than any other area plan, per Town staff), (ii) is NOT being pushed by a developer that wants to build a project in the area, and (iii) is a complete change to the existing uses and existing configuration of infrastructure and design of the area.
Either plan as proposed will present problems for not only the Main Street property owners but the entire town. We were made all sorts of promises as to why it was necessary for the Village to be built and why in-place requirements were ignored and how the Village would bring in more visitors to town. Such promises have not come to fruition. The same will be true of the proposed Main Street plans.
Town residents should not be bullied into fantasies of beautification at the expense of pragmatic concerns that will, if not addressed properly, cause a deterioration to Main Street as opposed to a revitalization.
I welcome a face lift to Main Street but it should and must be done in such a way that (i) has a real hope of actually becoming a reality, not just wishful thinking, and (ii) does not pose the real potential of destroying existing businesses currently located on Main Street or the value of those businesses and property.
Gregg P. Martino