The Mono County Search and Rescue Team is about to hang up its homeless hat and settle down into some permanent digs; that is if the color of the roof of its new home can be worked out.
On Wednesday, SAR, along with their architect Craig Tapley, came before the Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission to garner approval on their Use Permit application for a permanent facility for SAR. The building would be placed on Mammoth Community Water District property, near the wastewater treatment plant. The structure would have a building footprint of 3,850 square feet and would include a garage/parking area, office space and meeting area.
Currently, SAR is using a temporary facility on the Mammoth Lakes Fire Department’s property.
“In the 43 years of SAR’s existence, this is the closest we’ve come to a permanent facility,” SAR Project Coordinator Dave Michalski explained to the Commission.
Tapley, who presented the project specifics on behalf of the large, red-shirted contingency that attended the meeting, explained that SAR had been seriously looking for a permanent location since 2004. He described the proposed building as “fitting perfectly and simply into the location at the water district.”
The building itself would be very industrial to blend with surrounding water district structures. It would also have to include a heating and cooling system; heating to keep the building somewhat warm in the winter so that SAR’s equipment batteries would stay charged, and cooling so that in the summer there could be some type of circulation management to keep the odors from the wastewater treatment plant from becoming overwhelming.
The three Commissioners that were present at Wednesday’s meeting (Tony Barrett and Rhonda Duggan had excused absences) were supportive of SAR in general and of the project. Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney, however, took issue with the color of the building’s roof.
Tapley originally wanted to use a light, even white roof in order to be energy efficient, as a white roof would automatically cool the building in the summer. He also pointed out that most of the water district’s buildings had whites roofs, so this color would again blend in. Tenney, however, feared that a white roof would make the building stand out in a garish manner to people on Mammoth Mountain, as well as people driving by on Hwy 203.
“It’s not just about the color,” Tenney said during deliberation. “It’s about keeping Mammoth competitive; I’m trying to keep the special experience of a Village in the trees for our visitors. We need to make an industrial building, inconspicuous. We don’t want to have the manmade dominate the natural landscape.”
Tenney suggested more landscape screening. Currently, the plans call for the removal of 11 trees that serve as a screen to the water district buildings and vehicles that are on the property now. The applicant had already planned to replace the trees it has to remove, plus more.
“It would be counterproductive to try to save the trees that are there,” Tapley explained. Tapley needs to raise the grade on the property in order to allow the building to sit high enough for water to drain away from it. During the grading and moving of earth, Tapley believes the trees would die. But the plans call for 19 new trees to be planted. Since the number of new trees exceeds the number of trees being removed, the project conforms to Town codes.
“I am more concerned about efficiency and conservation than what people see from the mountain,” said Commissioner Sharon Clark, who pointed out that she lives in one of the highest single family homes in town and when she looked from her property to try to find the water district property, she was at a loss.
“I saw Vons and the blue roofs,” she explained, referring to a condo complex in town.
MCWD General Manager Greg Norby told The Sheet that in the grand scheme of things, the public wouldn’t be able to spot the SAR building among the other, larger MCWD buildings.
“If you are up on the mountain the biggest thing you are going to notice are our new solar panels,” Norby said, referring to the solar power plant that they recently installed to help run the water district efficiently.
Overall, Commission Vice Chair Jay Deinken was happy with the project and pointed out that the staff report already contained a condition for dealing with the roof. The condition states that staff and the applicant will continue to work on the roof color until a compromise is reached that satisfies both parties.
Deinken also dubbed SAR’s services as “Priceless” in reference to the MasterCard commercials. He felt that the Commission should add a recommendation into its motion to have the Town Council waive any fees it can for the project going forward. This was something the applicant planned to request of Council, but was not technically an item for discussion at the Commission level.
The applicant will be requesting the waiver of Development Impact Fees ($7,000), as well as permit and building fees ($8,000) according to Tapley. Since the project is being built entirely with in-kind donations as well as monetary donations, the waiver of fees could be looked at as the Town’s contribution.
The Commission approved the application 3-0.