OMP, yeah, you know me
Some say that 55-plus meetings regarding the development of Old Mammoth Place were too many. I would agree, if that were the case, but it is not. A majority of the meetings were held to establish implementation of our 2007 General Plan, Community Benefits, District Planning and Height & Density Policies.
After those initial meetings, planning commission was asked to evaluate and find compromise on the redevelopment of Old Mammoth Road consistent with the Council-accepted North Old Mammoth Road Special Study (NOMRSS) with a project named Old Mammoth Place (OMP).
Our 2007 General Plan calls for the North Old Mammoth Road District to be comprised of mixed-use development. OMP is a mixed-use development. OMP will provide more than 376 full-time non-seasonal jobs for our community. OMP met every required community benefit, plus some, and is in accordance with our 2007 General Plan.
Town Council directed two dueling economists to work out the economic analysis; they came up with the same conclusion. “Although OMP will provide many community benefits and millions of dollars annually in T.O.T, sales tax and property taxes, without the density, OMP wouldn’t pencil out for the applicant,” they said. The alternative was not to build OMP and leave the site as is.
Why did the applicant move forward? “We have made Mammoth Lakes our family’s home and I have a vision of locals and visitors visiting OMP, sipping coffee or wine, dining, engaging in relaxing conversation, shopping in an artisans market for local artists to sell their wares, utilizing child-care, staying in a quality, affordable hotel & conferencing space, and developing on-site workforce housing along with market rate condos,” the applicant said. OMP will be a destination venue in accordance with NOMRSS and our 2007 General Plan and Vision.
Now we have a group of people, including two candidates, opposing the project and filing an appeal. Only two of the folks filing the appeal came and participated in testimony before the planning commission. Of the two candidates supporting the appeal, one filed the appeal; the other stated “he will publicly support it,” and neither came to the meetings and participated in the process. Our process is set up for folks to come and voice concerns, work together and come to a best possible outcome. Instead, these two candidates decided to come out after the conclusion.
Folks, do leaders do this? I don’t think so. Candidates who come out in support of this appeal are doing so to grandstand for the June 8 election, to deflect from the critical issues we are facing for Mammoth’s positive future. Where were they during the process? Do leaders conduct the process in this fashion? No, they don’t. The process works if you participate; our process works if you’re not abusing it for political gain. These two candidates have disregarded our process, and then filed an appeal for political gain. They are the same two, who as past Councilmembers brokered the Intrawest deal; you remember the no-parking, give-the-town-away Intrawest deal?
I served on the subsequent Town Council where we were faced with very hard decisions based on their failed, broken Intrawest deal. No future council should ever have to be left with the mess we were left with. Now they want to act like they are doing something in our best interest. Again, where were they during the 55+ public meetings?
Planning Commission considered and included language in the ‘Conditions of Approval’ regarding the requests of Mammoth Community Water District and Mammoth Lakes Housing. The applicant worked with MLTPA (Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access) with a positive outcome.
The CB/IZ (Community Benefit/Incentive Zoning) policy will be formally adopted by the Town Council before OMP grading permits are pulled. The OMP applicant agreed to abide by the adopted housing and CB/IZ policies. If the two candidates had participated in the meetings they would know this information.
The OMP project is years away, but, approval of it sends the message that the community of Mammoth Lakes is willing to work together for a positive future. The OMP approval demonstrates we are not the black-eyed resort in the financial and resort markets. Mammoth Lakes is on the precipice of bringing the investment capital and the real jobs that go with it back. Yet, the actions of these two candidates, if successful, will set our community back many years, once again. This time we won’t have any seatbelts.
The OMP project applicant continues to improve the property with upgrades to the hotel. Rafters along with the other established businesses on Old Mammoth Road have brought new life to the district. Ocean Harvest is due to re-open in the immediate future.
To save the Town more than $200,000 annually and increase the community benefit, I proposed to the OMP project team that they work with the Town to move the Town Ice-Rink to the OMP property for winter 2010/11 and beyond. If this could be accomplished, an agreement could be reached between the Town and the OMP project applicant to also partner in the programming of the ice rink.
Alas, with this political maneuver by the two candidates, we may just have lost this golden opportunity.
Cage is a giver
I am always amazed at how much this community gives, especially to children. This past weekend Tom Cage sponsored a race I had never been a part of before.
Tom Cage is a busy guy, normally: a business owner for years in town, chairman of the Oversight Committee for MUSD, active in the Boosters at Mammoth High School, and coaching the girls’ soccer team to the second round of CIF. Probably most importantly: husband and father. (These are the things I know; I am sure he does more! He is a great example of a person who gives back to his community. He is also an extremely valued member of our community.)
This past weekend my two sons had the chance to participate in the annual Kittredge Fun Cup, sponsored by Tom Cage. Tom was up there early handing out t-shirts and participation medals to all the kids aged 8 and under who signed up ready to rock-and-roll. He was happy, upbeat and positive.
Then, they raced, head-to-head in a modified GS. Tom announced all the racers colorfully. He was very entertaining. At the end of the day, he gave out huge, shiny trophies to the top three finishers in all age groups. Just an overall great experience.
I know Tom probably doesn’t want any thanks or credit, but I just wanted to let him know how much fun my boys had and what a great positive experience he has created for so many kids.
Much thanks deserved!
The “Big Lie”
In last week’s Sheet, Gregg Martino’s letter was right on target. The idea that we have to redevelop Main Street is just another version of the “Big Lie” that the big developers have been telling us since they carpetbagged into town.
“What’s here is crap. Let us tear it down and build you something better and people will come from all over the world and make you rich.”
There is nothing wrong with Main Street as it is. It’s a road. You use it to get to the ski hill or the Lakes Basin. Works just fine for that purpose. The idea that people will come to Mammoth to shop if Main Street is redeveloped is ludicrous. You can’t buy anything in Mammoth that you can’t buy cheaper somewhere else.
What you can’t get anywhere else is the great ski hill and the beautiful Lakes Basin. That’s what people come here for and they get there via Main Street every day.
I won’t list my criticisms of the redevelopment plans that have been offered. Mine are pretty much the same as Martino’s.
What we can do is make small, obvious incremental improvements that takes our town closer to the desirable goal of becoming more pedestrian friendly. As Martino says, “Small, incremental changes would make more sense, be more affordable, obtain more support and allow Main Street to move forward.”
Recently I read about the idea that we should close off the frontage road on the south side of Main Street for the summer and turn it into a pedestrian mall. Great idea! And I have a suggestion how to make that plan a little better and permanent.
Provide direct access from 203 to each of the 5 streets in the Sierra Valley Sites — Callahan, Joaquin, Lupin, Mono and Manzanita — by punching an opening directly to those streets from 203. I would also add a new driveway through the berm in front of Schat’s/Base Camp and another one at Slocums/Wave Rave and maybe one for Turner and A-Frame. Then all the parking for the existing businesses on the frontage road can be entered directly from Hwy 203. And no car has to drive down the frontage road to get to any of the businesses.
That would allow closing the entire length of the frontage road from Laurel Mountain Road to Callahan to vehicle traffic and converting the frontage road into one long pedestrian mall where pedestrians and cars would no longer have to compete and give locals a safe and fun pedestrian mall to commute to and from work and for other errands.
Most year-round and long term residents live in the downtown area. A pedestrian mall to Old Mammoth Road, easily accessible from anywhere in the area is an obvious necessity for people getting to and from many places of employment and for running errands.
Eventually I would extend the frontage road as I just described all the way to Minaret Road. This meets the goal of enhancing the walkability of the downtown area while not forcing pedestrians and businesses closer to Hwy 203.
Moving pedestrians and businesses closer to 203 diminishes the walkability of the downtown area. All you have do to verify the truth of that statement is to walk alongside it. When was the last time any of you walked any distance alongside 203? Who would want to?
This pedestrian mall would eliminate the need for bike paths on 203 and provide room for right turn lanes and bus turnouts on the south side of 203, which would help keep traffic flowing smoothly. By providing an easy to use and pleasant pedestrian corridor safely distant from 203, you generate the foot and bike traffic that could — no guarantees — begin to revitalize the south side of 203.
And there you have it. Simple, incremental improvements to Main Street that will positively affect the entire town, without erasing existing businesses and destroying lives.
We need to stop listening to the big developers. They are not our friends.
Appeal has merit
I am supportive of the appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the Old Mammoth Place Project, and encourage those who are interested in this development to consider the following:
Although there is unquestionably the need for a quality development in place of the existing uses (even after the current upgrade) on the project site, I do not believe that the proposed project in its current form should be approved by the Town Council.
One year ago I publicly expressed my dissatisfaction with the direction of the project before Council. More than 20 additional meetings later, we have a project that demonstrates failure at several levels.
First, the process failed. Fifty-plus meetings and several economic studies have not produced a project which is consistent with the General Plan.
Second, the failure of Council to adopt zoning regulations which match an updated General Plan has resulted in an experiment which could establish a precedent for height and density which is directly contrary to what I believe the community desires for any area outside of the Village.
Third, the passage of a community benefits policy called “CBIZ” without any implementation language has resulted in confusion on the part of the developer and the Planning Commission, which has had to negotiate the value of community benefits “on the fly.”
Fourth, the Council has failed to provide, with a single voice, specific direction to its appointed Planning Commission members regarding what it (the Council) considers to be an appropriate trade of “community benefits” in exchange for housing mitigation fees and development impact fees. The result appears to be a staff and consultant-driven deal by which benefits which appear to benefit the developer are being sold to the community as benefits for all.
It appears that the appeal has technical and legal merit. I urge the Council to uphold it and send the project back to the Planning Commission with direction on what it really wants to see for the benefit of the community, and with a command that the Commission adopt findings consistent with Council direction.
Mammoth needs to compete
I am very concerned about the new $92 lift ticket for 2010 in an economy where casual cash is not flowing. It seems to be a quality vs. quantity issue and I wonder what that break point is where the quantity of skiers goes down because the price is just too high and the quality doesn’t matter. Competition is good, we don’t have any here so there is no reason for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area to compete with other ski areas … or is there? Look at this. You will find it on the homepage of www.snowsummit.com:
“$25 SoCal Steal of a Deal. All SoCal Mountain Resort Season Pass Holders, including Mammoth Mountain, receive their discounted Area Use Lift Ticket for only $25! Present valid I.D. and your current season pass from another Southern California Mountain Resort (Bear Mountain or Snow Summit not included) to the Guest Services Office to receive the discounted rate. This offer is good any day through the end of the 2009-2010 winter season. It is not valid in conjunction with any other offer, discount or coupon.”
They also had a pretty funny promotion, where if you get a oil change at Jiffy Lube, ($29.99) you get a free lift ticket at Snow Summit. Clearly they figure that someone will be coming with them, so it really is a 2 for 1 promotion, but nonetheless, a promotion where outside vendors were used to help promote the ski area.
Fmr M.L. Tourism and Rec Commissioner
I don’t love that dirty (iced) water
The flurry of letters to the editor about Mammoth’s future is now focused on a new plan for a six-acre project in the center of town: Old Mammoth Place. The proposed project is five years out, but an objection voiced by some is that the planned retail “marketplace” and restaurants will compete with existing retail. There are empty storefronts. How can the town accommodate any more business?
A community can always accommodate and welcome well-run, well-maintained business with competitive pricing. Mammoth has such standouts now. However, those who object to a little competition could benefit from an after-dark tour of the town’s here-and-now commercial areas.
Recently a local businessman and I made this tour and saw first-hand what our visitors see: burned out light bulbs (eight in the soffit of one business), business names only half-illuminated, uneven sign lighting because of misdirected fixtures, “droopy drawers” plasticized canvas signs everywhere hanging from snow stakes or strung over entrances and windows, ‘Welcome Fishermen” beer banners left over from last year, advertising signs and news racks stuck in snow banks, red bows on light poles and Christmas decorations on pine trees although it’s now spring break, dumpsters parked in front of businesses, hodgepodge holiday light strings on buildings, trash … and on and on.
It was obvious our business climate problems go far beyond the dirty piles of snow we all complain about on Main Street. We’re beginning to look like a town on the skids.
See for yourself. If you’re a business owner and haven’t done this in awhile, drive by or stand across the street and view your business through a visitor’s eyes. Consider the front of your business as a theater stage and ask yourself: How is the stage designed to draw in customers? Is the business name sign clear and properly lighted? Is there irritating glare? Are the windows filled with a clutter of signs or can the visitor see attractively lit displays of merchandise or diners enjoying a good meal? What makes the visitor want to enter the establishment and linger?
Acting on the answers to these questions will incur little or no cost and can make a huge difference in the bottom line.
Every resort community is aggressively “preparing for reinvestment,” but in my travels, I’ve seen few resort towns as careless about the present as Mammoth seems to be. Details matter. We’re falling further and further behind in competing with other resort communities for vacation dollars.
Ask the eight Town Council candidates what they intend to do about it.
Chair, M.L. Planning Commission
I am always so thrilled to open the paper and see a letter to the editor from Susan Berger. Her s%$t is so entertaining, as there’s really no one in town so shamelessly ready to hang out their dirty laundry for others to see.
I’ve spent hours contemplating my two-word response to her latest in The Sheet, March 20, in which she wrote about having her car physically moved by a snowplow at the Vons parking lot where she left it overnight:
Vons should send her a letter. “Sorry, Susan, but we had to move your $700 jalopy to make room for the $50,000 autos that belong to all those people you hate to share the lifts with from places like Brentwood, Palos Verdes and Santa Monica.”
Talk about karma.