A Big Clean thank you!
The wonderful town of Lee Vining would like to thank U.S. Pumice, Construction Specialty and D&S Waste Removal, Inc., as well as the many volunteers who helped with our clean up day on May 15. For keeping this perfect little corner of the world tidy, thank you all so much!
Volunteer Fire Department
Hoping for better
The following represents the perspective of the Mammoth Alliance of Property Owner Associations (MAPOA) regarding the outcome of the June 8 election, where John Eastman, Matthew Lehman and Rick Wood won seats on Town Council.
Since there was much activity related to Old Mammoth Place (OMP) development by both the public and town governance and all candidates got embroiled in that issue, we include our observations from that as well.
As will become clear in the next few paragraphs, MAPOA believes the previous Town Council largely ignored public comment and the desire of the community BUT we hope the new Town Council will be responsive to the public and act accordingly. If so, we will support them.
There is good news and not so good news from the election. John Eastman, Neil McCarroll and Wendy Sugimura all demonstrated, with their actions over their entire term, that they support significant development, allowing for heights much above existing zoning and allowing densities much above town guidelines, using their interpretation of “Community Benefits and Incentive Zoning” as their strategy. The good news is that neither Neil nor Wendy will be on the Town Council but the bad news is that John Eastman was reelected.
Although MAPOA does not have a demonstrated history of governance from the other victors, Lehman and Wood), we believe the town is better off than before the election. Neither Sharon Clark nor Tony Barrett were elected to Town Council but they will continue to be on the Planning Commission, at least until new appointments are made.
Shortly before the election, Old Mammoth Place (previously called Clearwater) was approved by the Planning Commission (Sharon Clark dissented) in March, 2010 and the Town Council (Skip Harvey dissented, Jo Bacon recused) in April, 2010 with a height that would result in a building up to 64.5 feet, even though existing agreed to zoning was previously compromised to 55 feet from 35 feet originally. The reference point for calculating height was changed from “natural grade” to the top of the underground parking lot ceiling, which is several feet above “natural grade” resulting in a podium from which height is measured (please note that the town defines underground as 70% of parking underground with 30% allowed aboveground). Town governance and developer refused multiple requests for “story poles” or balloon demonstration of the height claiming that computer aided design drawings and simulations are better. A formal appeal was filed but rejected by Town Council members Eastman, McCarroll and Sugimura shortly before the election.
In large part due to the actions, both verbal and written, by the public during Mammoth Crossing Project reviews before the Planning Commission and Town Council in 2009, the developer performed a “balloon demonstration” of the Planning Commission approved heights at three corners of Main and Minaret in September. It should be pointed out that the developer performed this demonstration at the insistence of the public, not because town governance directed them. In fact, town staff and the Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw insisted that the computer simulations were adequate and balloon demonstrations unnecessary. We believe that largely as a result of the balloon demonstrations, all the high towers (from 85 to 130 feet) were eliminated by Town Council and the structure height envelopes reduced to 70 feet for site 1 (Whiskey Creek) and 65 feet for sites 2 (Old Church) and 3 (White Stag), although Neil McCarroll insisted on language to consider an additional 10 feet “if the architect shows that this is required for a superior design.” We would have preferred even a larger reduction but at 65 feet, the height is consistent with the surrounding tree canopy.
The public needs to keep its vigilance to make sure when the next step is taken by the Mammoth Crossing developer with the newly formatted town council that we are aware of what is planned and take action as required.
Several issues that pertain to height became clear as a result of the Old Mammoth Place discussions and Town Council actions that likely will set precedent for subsequent projects, especially Mammoth Crossing. Hopefully, the new Town Council will be more receptive to the public!
The Town Council had no interest in considering private views from private property; residences, condos, property owners nor businesses. Computer Aided Design (CAD) drawings and the computer generated flyby demonstration were from street level (Old Mammoth Rd, Meridian, and Laurel), and thus the street front lower structures blocked the view of the taller structures further within the project. When several condo owners of second story units complained, they were incorrectly told that their views would not be impacted.
Town governance is not receptive to the opinions of second homeowners, though they will not admit it, since second homeowners cannot vote in Mammoth elections. It is interesting that the Planning Commission Chairperson, Rhonda Duggan, appointed by the Town Council is not a Mammoth Lakes resident and cannot vote in Mammoth Lakes BUT she is able to influence town development while second homeowners who typically are also business owners in that they rent their units and get direct feedback from their customers on what they value about Mammoth do not have any means to influence Town governance.
The reference point from which height will be determined will not be “natural grade,” but rather from the top of the “underground” garage ceiling. As 30% of the “underground” parking is allowed to be aboveground, the resultant “podium” will be the reference point. This becomes even more difficult to visualize when the property is not perfectly flat or there are different elevations involved.
Height allowances will not include appurtenances, such as elevator shafts, nor structures to make the project LEED compatible, such as solar panels and perhaps water tanks. Although existing rules limit appurtenances to 3 feet, the OMP developer indicated that the elevator shaft will be approximately 8 feet and the solar panel height will be determined based on the type of panels selected and the angle required for adequate sun coverage. None of the appurtenances were represented at the meetings or documentation and will be above the building height definition.
The Town Council will not require “story poles” or balloons to demonstrate height; computer graphics and simulations are deemed adequate. We believe this is flawed reasoning, especially considering all the issues described above. Seeing is believing!
Additional heights and densities will obviously result in additional water usage. Many in the “public’ raised concerns and the water district wrote letters expressing their concerns, but the town does not appear to be listening.
Fortunately, when the public fought to reduce heights of Mammoth Crossing, they emphasized maintaining building heights consistent with the town’s declared vision of “a village in the trees.” This approach is consistent with Mammoth Lakes’ General Plan and therefore can be successful in areas where there is a tree canopy that exists, as is the case for Mammoth Crossing.
Mammoth Alliance of Property Owner Associations (MAPOA)
The budget process
Dear Town Council members:
I am writing with regard to our Town budget, its structure, format, and process. The timing of this letter is purposeful, as you started budget discussions this week. I am proposing and encourage this bold yet necessary action to improve Mammoth Lakes. I urge you to take a step back, re-evaluate and dramatically change our budget, the clarity and transparency of it, the process in which it is created, and the format.
It is my direct observation over the past years that our budget is dysfunctional. It is not clear, concise, transparent, or easy to read and understand. Editor’s note: Mayor McCarroll acknowledged in a phone conversation with Lunch on Thursday that the draft budget is “unreadable.”
Many items refer to other items within it. There are statements made in the priority section about no monetary ramifications which are vague and poorly represented, with no definition. There is no obvious line-item calculation to show how larger numbers are created.
It was evident by this election that the community desires better fiscal oversight. I think the first step is the budget format and process. I am asking for this change and I am willing to help. I know we are capable of great transformation. The new Town website is an example of such improvement. I applaud those who participated in its vision and creation.
The Council must set the Town’s spending priorities and make Staff responsible for implementing only these priorities. I believe that department heads should and can create and be accountable for their own budgets. We have to track variances to the budget on a monthly basis to immediately identify where we are off target and address how we plan to move forward and fix or mitigate those deviations.
I highly recommend that we start with focus on the format, process and structure of the budget. Community members must have the ability and appropriate venue and timeframe to give advance input; which coupled with a new format will allow for more trust and understanding of our budget. This will immediately change the tone from frustration to positivity. We should use the budgeting process as a tool to vision and prioritize the services we provide the community. We must find ways to increase revenue, cut expenses and optimize processes.
There are educated townsfolk who are knowledgeable in this area and willing to step up to the plate and assist in this process. I am one of them. I suggest you immediately appoint a temporary financial committee to assist you, the Town Council and staff in creating this new process.
Specifically, I am recommending:
• That we adopt a short term budget (perhaps first quarter fiscal year 2010/11) only to hold us over until a budget overhaul can be completed, implemented, and adopted.
• That we form a temporary financial committee to join the Town Council and Staff during restructuring.
• The meetings are facilitated and focused.
• That we review sample budgets from other communities. As a positive example I have contacted Park City regarding this.
• I envision it will take 6 to 8 half-day workshops — if we all come prepared.
• We create the look, feel and process for our future budget.
• Then the proposed 2010/11 budget; within this new model, can be presented.
Park City’s is one example of a great town budget. (You can find it at www.parkcity.org/index.aspx?page=95.)
I would like to specifically point out Page 17 of the Park City “Citizens Budget” and that city’s timeline for the budget process; the analysis of its revenue mix; as well as the Benchmark and Peer Resort sections.
I welcome any and all questions or comments, and look forward to working with you as a volunteer on this endeavor.
Politics, police and the budget
Can anyone understand — much less explain — what is happening in Mammoth Lakes vis a vis the Town Council’s attack on the Mammoth Lakes Police Department leadership, the budget crisis and paying a headhunter to find an “interim police chief” for six months?
The citizens of Mammoth Lakes whom I have spoken to respect and support the current chief, his lieutenant and the entire leadership of the police department. Why then has Town Council encouraged their retirements?
Why do Council members continually bring up a Grand Jury investigation that found no wrongdoing; no inappropriate action; allegations unsubstantiated? (Read the report at http://monocourt.org/pdfs/gj_final_report_08-09.pdf.)
Supposedly these encouraged retirements are/were being done to reduce expensive positions and help the fiscal problems the city budget is facing. How is paying a headhunter saving money? Do you think that the “interim chief” is going to work for less then the current chief? Do you think the six-month “interim chief” will care about Mammoth Lakes? What happens after six months? Hire another headhunter to find a new chief? Does the council even know what it is looking for?
Many of the new Council candidates were singing the same tune as the incumbents. Most were spouting untruths about the size of the police department, saying it is keyed to a population of 35,000. Do not believe that! Two officers and a sergeant cover most shifts at the police department, a total of three officers working a town of approximately 7,000 residents. That number is a minimum, and barely enough to protect the local residents.
What do these officers do? They work traffic control (speeders, drunk drivers, accidents, etc), animal control (a bear on your deck or breaking into your house, garage, or car), a bar fight, domestic violence, lost child, stolen property, taking a law breaker to Bridgeport for booking (2.5 hour minimum roundtrip away from Mammoth) working at the school protecting our children from drugs, bullying and predators, and trying to keep Mammoth safe for its citizens.
Do you seriously believe this is overstaffing? What response time do you expect, minutes or hours, when you call to report someone breaking into your home or car or are faced with a 300-pound bear? Providing public safety is not cheap but it is worth every dollar it costs. Speak out in favor of the brave men and women who are protecting you 24/7.
The Town Council needs to fix what is broken, and leave what is functioning properly alone. Ask the new Council what their priorities are and tell them what is important to you.
Support your local police department; public safety is important to all of us.
Editor’s Note: To expand upon Mr. White’s point regarding the fiscal impact to the Town of the early retirement buyouts of MLPD Chief Randy Schienle and Lt. Jim Short, the buyout agreement calls for the Town to make payments of $10,000/year for Schienle and $8,000/year for Short for the next 13 years. Or put more simply, $234,000 over 13 years.
Running on memories
We are a couple of “those people” who thinks our dog is the center of the universe in which we orbit around. As I type this, I can’t bear the empty spot under the living room window where Aspen used to lay. This weekend, Andrew and I lost our 14 year-old Chocolate Lab. Nothing in our past has been more difficult than this. Dr. TeSlaa was our hero for the past week as Aspen suffered from a sickness greater than our knowledge to fight it, age. Thank you, Dr. T, for your tireless determination, compassion and commitment to helping Aspen and us. Aspen struggled for days, but it was equaled by Dr. TeSlaa’s fight to regain her health. In the final moments, Dr. TeSlaa was with us in what was the worst day we have ever known, but he made it a special parting for all of us.
As bad as this hurts, she was the greatest gift to Andrew and me. In 14 years, we have a lot of memories to reflect on because she was so much a part of our every day. There are so many times where life and my career as a professional distance runner meet to teach me great lessons.
In running I have always known that the lowest points of breaking my foot in the Olympic Games or having a devastating performance when I thought I was better prepared were worth the many highs I’ve gotten from this sport. This running philosophy gave me strength this week. As with Aspen, losing her was worth the cherished time we got to spend with her.
This mutt from the pound in Fayetteville, Ark., was a great gift to Andrew and me. When the time is right, we will find another great animal to adopt, spoil and learn from. Dr. TeSlaa will have another dog to help us grow with. There are so many dogs in need of homes, and when we are ready, we will visit one of my favorite websites www.petfinder.com to find an addition to ours.