Old Mammoth Place withstands final affront
In the five years since it first debuted as The Clearwater, Old Mammoth Place has endured an architect change, a name change, the removal of a partner and seemingly endless criticism.
The constants have been owner/developer Jim Demetriades and legal counsel Mark Carney.
And after Town Council turned back an appeal of the use-permit and tentative tract map during a contentious four-hour appeal at its regular meeting Wednesday night, Demetriades and Carney finally emerged triumphant.
While Demetriades energetically thanked the community and offered appetizers and drinks on the house (at Rafters), Carney looked, well, exhausted.
Sheet: I have to admit I never thought you’d actually pull it off … whatever he [Jim] is paying you isn’t enough.
Carney (smiling): Tell him that.
The final hurdle was Wednesday night’s appeal, spearheaded by former longtime Community Development staffer Bill Taylor (now retired) and Council candidate Kirk Stapp.
And while Stapp and Taylor did bring up several points in which approval actions may not have dovetailed precisely with various policy documents, the Town’s special land-use counsel, Attorney Kevin Ennis, more or less said, you don’t have to be perfect. Being true to Council intent is good enough.
“There is no paradigm of perfection for policy,” echoed Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw. “We acknowledge we’re not perfect.”
For example, the appellants pointed out that a list of approved community benefits had never been formally adopted by Council.
However, Council had approved a community benefits/incentive zoning (CBIZ) policy and as Carney pointed out, the benefits suggested by his client as part of the Old Mammoth Place were vetted in public meetings on no less than seven occasions.
Ultimately, you can skirt around the edges all you want creating policy, but in the end, it all boiled down to the fundamental question of how much is too much.
On the one hand, Steve Schwind of Shoulda-Bin-A-Cowboy said his customers are outraged by the proposed height of the project and don’t want Mammoth to become built up like another mini-L.A.
On the other hand, economist Walter Kieser said that nothing will get built in Mammoth if land-use policy does not reflect economic reality.
“How many feathers can you pluck out of the goose before it dies?” he asked rhetorically.
“Not surprisingly, we have a difference of opinion. This is Mammoth Lakes, after all,” observed Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory.
Gregory added in jest that he was one of four people in the room not running for Town Council this year.
One of those who is running for Council is former Mayor Rick Wood.
Wood spoke in support of the appeal, but said he was not affiliated with any group.
Wood said his principal issue with Old Mammoth Place has been one of process.
“Success of public outreach cannot be judged by the number of meetings held,” he said
Wood just thought the whole thing was backwards. That the developer told the Town what he needed in order to build and provided a specific list of community benefits tailored to that purpose, and that the Town developed policy to make it all work.
The appeal was denied by a 3-1 vote with Jo Bacon recused because of a conflict. Skip Harvey was again on the short end of the vote.
Post-meeting, Council candidate Tony Barrett sent out an email Thursday morning calling Councilmember Wendy Sugimura a “stateswoman” for her comportment at Wednesday’s meeting. One might think that Barrett were pandering to Sugimura’s constituency … if there were any constituency left. Maybe he was just being nice.
And before I depart … as to the early retirement rumors swirling around MLPD Chief Randy Schienle, yeah, Schienle acknowledged there have been some discussions regarding a buyout, nothing more. Now that the cat’s out of the bag (thanks to Byng Hunt’s comments at a Town/County liaison meeting), I’ll bet Schienle’s price has gone up.
Hold out for sideline tickets to a Dolphins/Pats game, Randy. I’ll carry your bags.