While the election was going on across the state, the business of County government moved forward on Tuesday inside the Mono County Board of Supervisors chambers.
And that business may create some more construction business.
Among other items, The Board deliberated on whether or not to approve a Tentative Tract Map for a series of single-family homes to be developed by Swall Meadows property owner Ralph Haber.
According to the staff report presented by the Planning Department’s Courtney Weiche, Haber’s proposal involves subdividing part of a 49.5-acre parcel, located along Ridge View and Cougar Run, into six lots. The Mono County Land Use for the site falls into two designations: Estate Residential (ER 2) and Specific Plan (SP). Weiche reported that five of the six lots are included in the approved 2001 Rimrock Ranch Specific Plan, which was updated in 2009. The southern lot, totaling 39.5 acres with an existing single-family residence on-site (Haber’s), would remain Estate Residential 2, and is not included in the current EIR analysis.
The proposed development calls for single-family homes on an average lot size of about 2 acres each. Weiche said it’s been concluded that there would be minimal visual, environmental and wildlife impacts.
Any structures submitted for construction are to be evaluated by the Wheeler Crest Design Review Board prior to approval for building. Services for the development would fall under Wheeler Crest water and fire districts, and there are two existing fire hydrants within the proposed development area.
Water levels in the area appear to be stable and not affected by domestic residential use. The area is estimated to be only 20% built out.
On the site to be developed is an abandoned gravel-based runway that is already partly paved over and part of what is now Ridge View Rd, and currently cuts across parts of lots three and four. The remainder of the defunct airstrip is to be removed and re-vegetated as part of the project improvement process.
The Planning Commission voted 4-0 in August to send the project forward to the Board, however, controversy surrounding the 10 acres intended for development dates back 10 years. According to Ralph Haber, there was a disagreement in terms of easements and zone-of-benefit payments regarding two pre-existing homes, compromises which have been since worked out between the various parties.
“These properties were part of the original EIR and were opted out by the developer. Now they’re being put back in and I can see why we’re going back to that original EIR, but it does raise some problems,” Supervisor Hap Hazard opined. “The world,” he said, “has changed in the past 10 years with respect to water reports and so on. What is the impact on the aquifer and how it’s monitored? So far, no significant impacts and it seems as though we’re on target with what we projected.”
He also took issue with the planned lower-income affordable and workforce housing mitigation. It’s not reasonable, said Hazard, to locate these families so far from services.
As recommended by the Planning Commission, Option A requires one such “affordable” house in the community, and Option B proposes two houses, which Hazard called “twice as bad.” Option C, he recommended, was to collect a fractional fee ($118,000 or an agreeable counter offer from Haber) and apply it to the Housing Mitigation Fund.
The planned “house” for mitigation, however, is more of an attached “granny” or “wayward son” type of unit, than a freestanding home.
Haber said he knows of at least three such ‘granny’ home units in use in Swall Meadows which he thinks sets precedent for his mitigation proposal.
“If it were an affordable housing unit, I’d feel different about it, but the fact that there are three other granny units down there makes me think we’ll get more immediate return [by letting him build] than just having $118,000 in our pockets,” Supervisor Vikki Bauer remarked. Supervisors Bob Peters and Chair Byng Hunt both supported the Planning Commission’s Option B – two granny units.
The Board approved the Tract Map conditions 4-0 (Supervisor Tom Farnetti was absent.) The Board voted on the affordable housing ordinance in a separate motion, approving Option B, 3-1. Hazard dissented, going on record as saying he thought the ordinance was part of a “flawed process.” Chair Hunt agreed to bring the ordinance as whole back before the Board for a more in-depth discussion. The Tentative Tract Map approval is valid for a period of 24 months.