Mono County’s Board of Supervisors heard an appeal by prospective Long Valley Dog Retreat owners Amanda Stone and Vince Maniaci at their last regular meeting in April. Stone and Maniaci sought to overturn a March 11 Mono County Planning Commission denial of a use permit and a waiver of a required $860 appeal fee.
The kennel operation, to be located at Stone and Maniaci’s residence at 116 Crowley Lake Drive in Long Valley, is in an area zoned for commercial, residential and mixed-use. Mostly residential now, it has previously been home to several neighborhood businesses.
In an odd turn of events for a Mono Planning meeting, the use permit ended up being approved AND denied at the same time. During the Planning Commission meeting, at which only three of the five commissioners were present, a motion to deny the use permit died for lack of a second. Another motion to approve, including a condition that the owners reside on site (easy to do, since their house in on property) was technically passed 2-1. County code, however, requires three votes to approve, essentially meaning the motion failed.
Of the three adjacent personal property owners, Stone and Maniaci say two support having the business and a third has remained neutral. According to Stone and Maniaci, the kennel would have a maximum of five boarded dogs, as specified in County code. She also listed a litany of other screening and monitoring safeguards designed “in consideration of our neighbors.” Animal Control will have access for inspections and the use permit can be pulled at any time for violations.
Fred Stump, who’s followed the kennel project through various meetings, said in his opinion the applicants have gone above and beyond to positively respond to all issues put to them. He also said that the business will only help “inject as much revenue into the county as possible.”
Mark and Bridget Busby of Crowley Lake, however, said they were not approached personally by Stone and were very skeptical of the noise generated by barking dogs, which many opponents said would constitute a noise ordinance violation. “The space is very tight,” the Busbys said. “It wasn’t thought out well when they purchased the property.”
Crowley resident Wayne Craft said noise has been a factor in shutting down business such as an ice house that was closed many years ago due to ordinance violations.
Supporters spoke to Stone and Maniaci’s character. One said they’ve been willing to compromise and “deserve a chance to do well.” Another lauded Stone’s way with animal’s and Maniaci’s honesty and upfront manner with the County throughout the process, which started last October.
James Connolly, who has lived in Crowley, Long Valley and now June Lake, said he likes the idea of having another legitimate operation closer than Bishop. (Mono and Inyo counties currently have seven boarding facilities, two of which are in Mammoth.)
Some in opposition, however, said many supporters of the business don’t live in Long Valley. One opponent said they’ve had problems with some of Stone’s personal dogs on their property. “How are they going to keep them out of our yard and out of our hearing,” Mike and Michelle Buness asked rhetorically. (Stone said one dog was in their yard several years ago when they first moved in and were installing a fence. She added that since that time, she has had no verbal complaints or issues with Animal Control.)
Supervisor Vikki Bauer was sympathetic to Stone and Maniaci, saying a June Lake hotel she owns allows dogs. “We have more problems with kids,” Bauer said. “Dogs don’t talk back … dogs don’t steal towels …”
The Board, however, kept going back the Planning Commission’s decision and how it was reached. Numerous glitches in the March meeting were disclosed, including not enough prior posting of the meeting at the Mammoth teleconferencing location, technical issues with the teleconference during the meeting, as well as various procedural hiccups before and after the vote.
Supervisor Hap Hazard said he thinks the current zoning doesn’t address the reality of the neighborhood. “I’m generally opposed to business kennels in residential areas,” Hazard said, adding his thought that the community has evolved from mixed-use to more residential in nature.
Supervisor Tom Farnetti disagreed. “It may ‘feel’ residential, but zoning allows mixed-use,” he said. Farnetti said that in light of all the kennel’s problems, it should go back to the full Planning Commission for a re-vote.
Chair Byng Hunt agreed. “Everyone’s right in this case,” Hunt observed. “The process failed. It’s no one’s fault, really; it just happened. I’d love to just go ahead and approve it right now, but I think in all fairness it deserves another run at the process.”
Hunt and the Board unanimously agreed to remand the item back to the Planning Commission. Further, the Board waived all fees in both Tuesday’s Supervisors appeal and the next Planning Commission.
Stone and Maniaci are hoping to get the item back in front of the Planning Commission as soon as possible. Stone told the Board that she and Vince are “hanging on by their fingernails.” Maniaci, she said, has gone almost a year without any architecture work and the two have gone through their retirement and much of their other savings.
Community Development Director Scott Burns said the item will be picked up for the Commission’s May 13 meeting, and a poll of Commissioners indicates there will be at least four, but most likely all five on the dais at that time.
A denial at that meeting, Stone said, would probably be the end. It’s unlikely they would be able to afford another appeal.