In my (former) position with the U.S. Forest Service, I had the opportunity to work on a number of controversial issues on the northern part of the Inyo National Forest, including the fuelwood management program and motorized and non-motorized recreationists.
In a variety of meetings over many years, I got to know Bill Sauser, both as an individual and as a representative of motorized groups. Bill is never shy at expressing his opinion, but I found him always willing to listen to views other than his own, and also willing to compromise to reach a solution that was workable for both sides. More important, he was often the one to initiate talks with those of opposing views, with the goal of trying to understand their issue.
Even when others’ perspectives were at odds with his, he listened carefully and respectfully, asking good questions rather than becoming polarized. I know him to be an excellent problem solver when difficult issues are involved.
Greater community benefits?
It is undoubtedly the most substantial, consequential, precedent setting decision the current Planning Commission and Town Council will ever make, approving or denying the Snowcreek Development Agreement (DA) as presented at Planning Commission on Wednesday.
As background, on May 5, the Town Council voted unanimously to lower DIF from $195 million to $105 million to incentivize new development, without discussing how the town would backfill the $90 million DIF reduction. The Snowcreek project(s) has seen its fees reduced by roughly $16 million.
Understanding the reduction of DIF is important, because the Snowcreek DA proposes to vest (keep in place) the reduced “new fees” for 20 years without the cost escalator which is applied to all other projects.
The Town’s Development Agreement Ordinance states that a DA is supposed to provide greater community benefits.
The Snowcreek DA proposes as its greater community benefit a financial contribution to the Town of $10 million with the following caveats:
1) The $10 million will be paid on a pro rata amount per unit at the time of the issuance of building permits for each unit. In other words, the $10 million isn’t paid up front; it’s paid as each unit is built over 20 years.
2) The $10 million can only be spent within Snowcreek’s Sphere of Influence and within the “Sherwin Area Recreation Plan.” Put simply, the $10 million can’t be spent in the Knolls or Sierra Valley or a park in the Trails.
3) The $10 million is not subject to COLA (cost-of-living adjustments).
4) Any changes proposed to the DA’s “Affordable Housing Mitigation Financial Framework” shall be deducted from the $10 million.
The Snowcreek DA proposes to reduce its in-lieu affordable housing fee for units built off-site from Council’s adopted interim fee of $209,000 per unit to $80,000. Using the back of an envelope calculation for the planned 47 off-site units, the housing fee gap between Council’s policy and the DA proposal is $6.3 million. The result is that the $10 million “community benefit” is offset by a $6.3 million reduction in housing mitigation leaving a net of only $3.7 million over the life of the project – of incrementally less valuable dollars over time.
Beyond the proposed fee reduction above, the remaining 47 on-site units are proposed to be sold at prices significantly higher than the level identified in the Council’s policy – targeting those who earn 175 to 200% of AMI (Area Median Income).
Development Agreements are intended to vest existing regulations, not amend them and are required by Town code to provide greater community benefits, not lesser. The draft DA before the Planning Commission profoundly fails to achieve the basic purpose of Development Agreements and leaves the community holding the bag.
How many times has the Town Council been lectured (by Rusty Gregory, no less) to reduce fees during recessionary times and increase fees during the good times? What the Snowcreek DA proposes is to lock in DIF and Affordable Housing fees at recession levels for the next 20 years. This agreement gives much to the developer with no promise of performance or greater community benefits in return.
Implications of favoritism?
This letter responds to statements made by my friends Therese Hankel and Mark Magit regarding the nature and effect of endorsements for judicial candidates. As many know, I am supporting Randy Gephart for judge.
I respectfully disagree with the suggestion that endorsements either imply or foster favoritism or conflicts of interest. Endorsements for judicial candidates are of vital importance when provided by community leaders, judges, lawyers and other persons in the community who have come to know the temperament of a candidate over the course of many years. It is impossible for voters who have little or no contact with the candidates or the court to accurately gauge a candidate’s aptitude for judicial office without input from individuals who know the candidate well. The judicial canons of ethics mandate that a judge disqualify him or herself when a conflict of interest exists, but an endorsement is not such a conflict of interest, and is not materially different from a yard sign or a letter to the editor in support of a candidate. Indeed, personal endorsements and testimonials from community members who have known a candidate over the years are essential to foster an informed decision by the electorate.
Timothy B. Sanford
Just say no to big bureaucracy
Business owners, home owners and others I’ve met think there still is money to be cut from our Town’s budget. I agree. When the economy is down, everyone has to downsize to stay solvent. Good business people cope. They would like to see Town expenses cut and so would I. Our Town of 7,000-plus people does not need government for a town of 70,000.
I mailed 2,976 “bite-size” Clark bars to voters to illustrate my deep belief that government should be small and efficient; i.e., extend furlough days but insist they are staggered. Closing Town offices is unacceptable and our executive body should have said so. We must do more with less and if elected, I will. If I don’t, hold my feet to the fire.
Candid, concerned & committed,
Sharon R. Clark
The following letter was sent to Mammoth Lakes Planning Commissioners by Bill Taylor, former Deputy Director of Mammoth’s Community Development Dept. As it touches upon some territory already covered by Kirk Stapp, who currently sits on the Mammoth Lakes Housing Board of Directors with Taylor, I largely edited out the first half of the letter and jump directly to Taylor’s recommendations to Planning Commission regarding housing mitigation policy in the Snowcreek Development Agreement.
This Tayl wags at planners
I am submitting to you my personal suggestions on the DA that you will be reviewing this week. They are based on my roughly 30 years of experience in planning, housing advocacy, and development in Mammoth as well as Town Council adopted policies.
Given that the basic purpose of a Development Agreement is to vest the existing rules and regulations of the Town, the fundamental question for the Commission is: Why does the DA not use the policy adopted by the Council in November as the foundation for its terms related to housing?
The proposed Snowcreek DA includes significant reductions to the housing requirements of Chapter 17.36 and of the Interim Housing Policy. Most of the debate around the implementation of 17.36 and the Interim Policy has centered on the amount of the in-lieu fee. While an important subject, it is not the relevant issue for the Snowcreek Development Agreement discussion. Both 17.36 and the Interim Policy require the housing to be constructed on site.
The determination to substitute a fee in lieu of construction is subject to a set of rigorous findings. These findings are not included in the evaluation of the DA. The Snowcreek DA should use either 17.36 or the Interim Policy as the basis for its housing requirements.
In applying the interim policy to the Snowcreek DA, the Commission should:
Require that 10 percent of the units in Snowcreek VIII be affordable to households making between 80% and 120% of the median household income. This percentage is lower than the average inclusionary requirement in California; less than the inclusionary requirement in Goleta a Community that the applicant has cited as a comparison city; and roughly half the requirement that Placer County applied to the Northstar Ritz Carlton that Rusty Gregory cited during the Old Mammoth Place appeal hearing.
Require that all terms of the Interim Policy, including livability standards be applied to the Snowcreek housing.
Require that a minimum of 70 percent of the units be for rent as required in 17.36.
Permit the applicant to apply for a density bonus in conformance with the State Density Bonus Law and, of course, subject to compliance with CEQA. The applicant would be eligible to obtain up to an additional 50 units of density.
Because the Interim Policy is the most recent policy of the Town Council, it should have been used in the development of the DA terms. No basis for lessening of that policy has been provided. If the policy is to be modified, there should be full evaluation of the necessity and impacts of that modification.
My calculation shows that the net housing benefit to the target income group identified by the Council drops from 10 percent to a financial equivalence of less than 2 percent. How is this a greater benefit?
Revitalize our trades
Our local tradesmen and their families have been hit hard over the last four years. It is one of my priorities to ensure they are put back to work.
To achieve success we must waive all fees associated with remodeling of residential and business properties for some defined time period. We must likewise waive fees for business owners and homeowners to encourage remodel work for a defined time period.
We should create further subsidies for business and residential owners who incorporate “green-building technology” over and above State of California 2010 Green Building Code requirements. We have the ability to make Mammoth Lakes a premier location for green building design and development. Fee waivers should be applied for applicants incorporating this technology.
We then need to allow for minor changes to building design and development for existing substandard construction, in-law units or for designs that incorporate “green-building technology,” over and above the State of California 2010 Green Building Code requirements. The approvals would be granted by the Community Development Director administratively and not go through the Planning Commission. This will expedite the process.
Finally, it is imperative that we implement a policy establishing a level of local trade use requirement for individuals and developers to do work in Mammoth Lakes. To further the use of local trades we must provide incentives for individuals and developers who use only our local trades when practicable. We can work with the local Contractors Association and our town attorney to design language that meets all Federal and State legal requirements to accomplish this task.
If elected, I commit to working with the balance of council to establish these and other policies to put our local trades back to work and to sustain their employment for our future. On June 8, I respectfully ask for your vote.
What to expect from our Sheriff
As I evaluate the present administration of the Mono County Sheriff’s Dept., I am seriously concerned about the professionalism of the organization and the quality of service offered by the present administration. The department does have many dedicated and highly competent deputies; however, the problem lies with the incumbent sheriff. He is not providing the leadership and administrative skills necessary to effectively manage a modern law enforcement agency which is facing increased societal problems as well as decreased available funding. It is time for a change. I believe that Doug Northington can provide the leadership necessary to lead the department in the years to come.
A present day law enforcement agency faces criminal and civil problems which demand an on-site administrator who is willing to totally commit himself to managing the department and ensuring that the citizens of this county receive the service and protection that they expect and are entitled to. That includes living within a reasonable distance of the county seat. This is certainly a must should there be a major or large-scale emergency requiring rapid response from law enforcement. The incumbent sheriff presently lives approximately 55 miles from the county seat and during off hours is not available to manage and direct the activities of his department for a prolonged period.
In addition, a sheriff must be willing and able to provide quality service to all citizens and not show preference to certain individuals, who, for a variety of reasons, expect and receive a higher level of service. Every person, regardless of status, should expect to be treated with respect and know that their contact with the Sheriff’s Department will be handled promptly and positively.
Today’s law enforcement agencies face complex problems requiring an administrator who recognizes the need for change and is willing to commit himself to offering his personnel advanced training and education. He must also provide the opportunity for advancement to those who have earned that privilege through hard work, dedication and education.
Lastly, law enforcement administrators must be able to fiscally manage their departments in a such manner that the service offered meets that level expected by the citizens of the county. This is a time when county revenues are decreasing and funding for county programs is being drastically affected.
I see mismanagement and neglect coming from the present Sheriff’s Department administration. This has affected the service being provided to the citizens of this county and could be significantly improved with a change in leadership. I retired after 34 years of being in management positions in municipal, state and federal law enforcement. I certainly think that I am qualified to analyze and judge the level of competence and professionalism of law enforcement personnel. I am comfortable endorsing and recommending Doug Northington for the position of Mono County Sheriff.
He has protected and served this county for 22 years as a member of the California Highway Patrol (CHP). While employed by the State of California, he has received 4,500 hours of training in all phases of law enforcement. He is a dedicated professional police officer, who has benefited from the level of training provided by the CHP and now wants to further service the citizens of Mono County by bringing his skills and knowledge to the Sheriff’s Department.
Mammoth, Mayberry … both?
Many in the community have voiced concern that current Mammoth Lakes Town Council members and Council candidates are not supportive of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department. As a candidate, I would like to clarify my position regarding the MLPD.
A question was posed at the Chamber of Commerce sponsored candidate forum last month as to whether the Town should consider contracting out law enforcement services with the Mono County Sheriff’s Dept. While I cannot spell out the details of such collaboration, I believe anywhere the town and county can work together would prove a great benefit.
Many jokingly liken Mammoth to Mayberry. I believe it is not a disparaging comparison. Mammoth is a town of four square miles with 7,000 permanent residents. As a business owner with a storefront, I am disappointed by the fact that I know only a few police officers. I assumed because we are a small town that our officers would stop into businesses, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. in order to reflect a positive presence within the community.
With our Chief of Police retiring, we have a great opportunity to change the way our officers serve the community. I look to Sheriff Rick Scholl’s style of management which is based on “Community Policing.” Community Policing is a philosophy that promotes collaborative partnerships between law enforcement, community members, schools, service organizations and private business to identify issues and/or concerns and develop proactive solutions. Community policing would be a great benefit not only to our local community members, but to our visitors as well.
Scholl on a roll …
I want to encourage voters in Mono County to get out and vote for Sheriff Rick Scholl. I acknowledge that Rick is my friend and has been since we first worked together as deputies for Mono County in the ‘80s. I would trust him with my life. So you would expect I would feel this way.
But let’s look at some facts. Sheriff Rick Scholl served as a deputy for eight years. His opponent: zero. Rick has been a Sheriff for 3.5 years. His opponent: zero.
In addition to his Sheriff and deputy sheriff experience, Rick served 10 years on the Mammoth Lakes Police Department, including as sergeant. He has also served on the San Diego Police Department. So he has experienced law enforcement as a “big and small city cop.” While on the Sheriff’s Dept., Rick has served in almost every position possible. His opponent has never served in any position within a Sheriff’s Dept.
Let’s look at training. The State of California offers certifications that can only be obtained by experience and education. The certification is issued by the state Peace Officers Standards and Training, more commonly referred to as POST. Rick has obtained one of only 115 Executive Certifications issued by the state. His opponent has only an Intermediate Certificate, something easily obtained by most basic police officers (me included).
Let’s look at accomplishments. First and foremost, his department is fully staffed when it comes to deputies and jailers. Not easy to do in a remote location such as ours. He has obtained 10 new court positions for screeners, 7 of which are currently filled. He has obtained new vehicles for Search and Rescue and added structures for the protection of their equipment and vehicles. He attends meetings throughout this county on a routine basis to communicate in person on subjects important to the citizens of the county. He does this throughout the year and not just during election cycles.
Lastly, while there are many more accomplishments and reasons for voting for Rick Scholl, to me the most important is his humility and honesty. I absolutely trust that Rick is the best person for the job and as such I strongly encourage you to vote for him to continue to be our Sheriff.
Mono County Sheriff’s Dept., Ret.