A newspaperman always gets suspicious when he hears about private meetings he hasn’t been invited to – of course, it never occurs to the newspaperman that he may not have been invited because he’s lousy company, or has terrible halitosis, or can’t keep his fingers out of the cashew bowl – no, there’s got to be a conspiracy.
The meeting in question apparently took place at the McAteer residence on Tamarack Street a few weeks ago. In addition to neighborhood residents, a few members of the Town’s community development department were also supposedly present.
The issue at hand is the small project proposed by Terry Plum which would be located at the end of Tamarack Street. Plum wants Planning Commission approval to build five single-family residences in the avalanche run-out zone.
Former Town Planning Director and erstwhile Town Historian Bill Taylor said that historically, avalanches triggered in the Bluffs have run across what is now the Plum property.
However, “you can design a building to withstand avalanche over-pressures,” added Taylor. “I don’t think having five homes out there is a ridiculous proposition.”
The danger lies not in people being inside if and when an avalanche is triggered. The danger, said Taylor, is if people are outside.
This is where things get interesting.
As part of his plan to win political approval, Plum wishes to create a public easement through the property for Sherwins access.
The studies claim that the presence of homes above the easement will otherwise mitigate the avalanche danger for pedestrians.
Attorney Tim Sanford, who represents homeowners on both Tamarack Street and Ranch Road, thinks this conclusion is a bit dubious.
Sanford said neighboring homeowners are also concerned at the prospect of Plum creating several parking spaces at the end of the street to support this access and the traffic it will draw.
Plum’s strategy, it appears, is to negotiate an easement as a community benefit with Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access (MLTPA) in order to win support for his project from Planning Commission and Town Council.
Not a bad strategy when three Planning Commissioners (Clark, Tenney and Deinken) are founding members of MLTPA, as well as two Councilmembers (Bacon and Harvey). There used to be four Councilmembers who were founding members (defined as those donors pledging $1,000 or more to the organization), until McCarroll and Sugimura declined to seek re-election last year.
Planning Commission Chairman Tony Barrett has already recused himself from the issue because of a recent art sale he made to Mr. Plum.
Town Attorney Andrew Morris said that according to California’s conflict of interest laws, there is no conflict if there is not a monetary interest, so even though all these public officials have pledged a certain amount of fealty to the organization, it does not preclude them from voting on items where MLTPA may have an interest.
This is how the Mammoth Lakes Recreation Commission, for example, (the entire commission is listed as a founding member) can grant MLTPA large sums of money without legal conflict.
MLTPA’s John Wentworth made it clear to The Sheet that MLTPA “does not endorse projects.” Rather, “We look at them [projects] with an eye as to how they promote an integrated trails system.”
Wentworth added, “The opportunity to provide legal access to public lands at the south boundary of town is important. If this project can provide that, that’s a good thing.”
Sheet: Is it ethical for Town officials who are founding members of MLTPA to vote on projects that directly affect MLTPA interests?
Wentworth: You’d have to ask them.
And from Kirkner’s desk …
Town Clerk Jamie Gray said Town Council made no official announcement regarding an Interim Town Manager coming out of its closed session meeting Thursday morning.
The ski-back bridge to the Village officially opened on Feb. 5, and a grand opening ceremony is planned for Friday, Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. Construction on the much-anticipated bridge began on Jan. 19. The final project connects Mammoth Mountain’s ski-back trail to the Village, keeping trail users off the street.
Lupe Almaguer, the Mammoth daycare provider who pled guilty to four counts of sexual abuse against children, will be sentenced on March 8 rather than Feb. 15 at the request of the defense, according to Deputy District Attorney Todd Graham. Jonathan Anderson, the young man arrested for attempted murder after being found under the victim’s bed, will, however, be sentenced on Feb. 15.
The Town of Mammoth continues its search for an Administrative Services Director, and recently changed the employment status to interim. “When we originally went through the recruitment process, the person that we identified as the top candidate withdrew before we were able to make an offer,” explained Town Manager Rob Clark. Since the Town is now in the position of looking for a new Town Manager as well, Clark explained that it would be best if the Administrative Services Director were hired on an interim basis so that the new Town Manager could have a say in whomever is chosen for the permanent position. “We have solicited further applications for an interim position because there is a need to fill the position now because of the amount of work piling up,” Clark explained.
And from Geisel’s desk …
Mammoth Brewing’s Sean Turner said via Facebook this week that Blues Traveler will headline the Friday night, Aug. 5, show during this year’s Bluesapalooza. Walter Trout will topline Saturday night and Robert Cray will close the festival Sunday night. “We now have a full three-day festival!” exclaimed Turner. Expect to fork over just a little more for all that major-league talent, however; ticket prices are set to rise $10-$15 by this Friday night.
And in a follow up to our story last week on the Crowley Lake cell towers proposed by Incline Partners (“Note to Cellf”), Mono County Community Development Director Scott Burns told us this week that he’s fielded a “number of concerned comments, well beyond what was anticipated.” Burns said he’s taking the time read through all of the comments, and will then turn his attention to what needs to be addressed.
Burns said he wants to review the environmental document’s negative declaration, and follow up on legal research into the health impacts, which he said would “clarify how far [the County] can go.” He also seemed to agree with some comments stating that more noticing about the proposed cell towers might be useful, to make sure the entire community has the opportunity to review the issue and weigh in on either side of it.
As to the public hearing, which was opened this week during the Mono Planning Commission’s regular meeting, and then continued, Burns said his intent is to pick up the hearing during the Planners’ March 10 meeting. “Normally, the Commission prefers to hold meetings [with hot topics] nearer to the center of controversy,” Burns explained, adding that the hearing will likely be conducted in a south county venue, possibly in Crowley itself.