The Mono County Board of Supervisors didn’t have the munchies when it came to an agenda item regarding relocation of Mono County’s Wellness Center in Mammoth Lakes.
County Mental Health Director Ann Gimpel asked the Board for direction on a potential move from the Center’s current location in the KMMT building on Laurel Mountain Road to the Sierra Center Mall on Old Mammoth Road. She has expressed concerns about the possibility that the Center could be a neighbor of a Medical Marijuana Dispensary. Applicant Steve Klassen has indicated he’s eyed a space next door to the Center for a dispensary, should he be approved for a use permit.
Rent on the Center currently runs at $1.10/ square foot, and would likely increase to some degree if moved. Gimpel said she’s “not married to moving it to the Sierra Center Mall,” and willing to look at other options around town. “If we can get close to $1.10 plus [common area fees], and maybe get a 3-year lease, the Sierra Center Mall looks pretty good,” she advised the Board. “I’ve been stringent, or what’s the word … cheap!”
Gimpel said she’s expecting the state to remove restrictions on Mental Health Services Administration funding to free up dollars, but can go ahead with a move without those. “Basically we have enough resources to support higher rent,” she acknowledged.
Locating a dispensary in the KMMT building isn’t a done deal. Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission is supposed to take up the issue in October.
Gimpel is not comfortable with the idea of a dispensary located next to the Wellness Center, which has clients dealing with substance issues.
“I don’t want to be in an adversarial position with either the Town or the Police Department,” Gimpel said. “I’m not against medical marijuana; I just don’t’ think having it next to a wellness center is a good mix.”
Chair Byng Hunt asked Gimpel if she’d be amenable to waiting and seeing what dispensary permits are approved by the Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission. “I’d rather be proactive than reactive,” she responded. “If the Board is okay with moving the Center to the mall, I’d be comfortable with that.”
They weren’t comfortable, at least not now. The cost of additional rent notwithstanding, other fees would need to be spent on salvaging or cleaning carpeting. Furniture and other items can be moved by or through Public Works, but the Board was interested in how much had already been invested in the current facility. “Quite a bit,” according to Gimpel, who originally estimated the amount of money in the thousands of dollars. She later revised that estimate, saying much of that may have been in in-kind materials and labor, and that “exact dollar figures are hard to add up.” Gimpel said volunteers from the 12-Step program laid some leftover carpet and quite a bit of cleanup and repainting has already been done.
Supervisor Hap Hazard thought a move premature. “Let the Town work through their process. If the dispensary is to be located within steps of the center, let the Town and [applicant Steve] Klassen pay for the cost to move the facility,” he said, not dismissing either the dispensary or any potential move.
Most supervisors said taking a little more time couldn’t hurt. Chair Byng Hunt pointed out it may be a non-issue if the dispensary destined for the KMMT building isn’t approved. Supervisor Tom Farnetti said Gimpel’s solution should be considered as one option, though he and Hunt agreed that her offer to gather more options within the Town of Mammoth Lakes would be helpful in making a decision.
Gimpel meanwhile has drafted a letter to Mammoth’s Planning Commission and plans to attend the public hearing next month. She also added the move isn’t something she came up with on the spur of the moment, saying she’s been working on the issue for “a long time.”
The issue is to be revisited next month, once Gimpel has compiled more information. The Board may opt to defer the time until after Planning Commission decides which of three applicants will be awarded the two allotted dispensary permits. The Commission’s special meeting is set for Wednesday, Oct. 27, at 9 a.m. in Suite Z.
During the Commission’s meeting this past Wednesday, Chair Tony Barrett said five applicants had originally filed papers (he didn’t elaborate on exactly who the applicants were). Of those, one withdrew and another was deemed “not qualified” as part of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department’s vetting process.