A road proposed by the Town of Mammoth would be installed in the narrow space behind the eighth hole of the Sierra Star Golf Course and the backside of units at San Joaquin Villas (pictured in the background). Either the course or the residences would have to be encroached upon to allow the road to fit.
Until just a few weeks ago, residents of San Joaquin Villas (SJV) in Mammoth Lakes were unaware that the Town was proposing to put in connector roads behind some of their units. Once they realized exactly what was going to happen, however, they wasted no time making their opposition known.
The roads would have either provided emergency vehicle access or a multi-use trail between Callahan Way and East Bear Lake Drive behind the D and E buildings of SJV, and between East Bear Lake Drive and Main Street, running behind building B.
The access would have served as a through route between Sierra Valley Sites and the Village and/or Sam’s Woodsite. The residents questioned the need for the access at all, since Bear Lake and Callahan already run past their properties and Main Street is a stone’s throw away.
The road was originally conceptualized during the Sierra Star Master Plan process, a process that is hibernating at this time due to the drop off in fee revenue due to a lack of development.
According to the staff report from Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, the Sierra Star Master Plan Planning Study (SSMPPS) “was developed as a draft in conjunction with a proposed update to the Lodestar Master Plan. However, the process was placed on hold by the applicant in 2008, along with the Sierra Star Master Plan Update, due to the economic downturn. Relevant information, including existing conditions data, and recommendations from the SSMPPS was considered during the SDNDP [South District Neighborhood District Planning] process, and in many cases has been incorporated into the SDNDP.”
The feasibility of the plans without development attached to them was not revisited. The plans were simply moved through the District Planning process without anyone contemplating that perhaps the road had become obsolete.
Community Development Director Wardlaw claimed that the Community Development Department does not have the time to go back and double check the overlap of plans over the years every time a new project is built to see how they coincide.
So, SJV residents sat through three and a half hours of unrelated agenda items during Wednesday’s meeting until the item finally came up and they had an opportunity to vent their concerns.
The first road in question would run parallel to buildings D and E at SJV.
“There is no need for an emergency access road or a multi-use path there,” said SJV homeowner Heather Condon, citing that an emergency access road would need to be at least 20 feet wide, which is unrealistic in the narrow space.
“Even just a pedestrian path is a problem,” Condon continued. “My back deck would bump right up to it. I can just imagine people riding by on their bikes, goofing around and falling and hitting their heads on my deck. I would be liable.”
The road would have to cut into either SJV easements or the Sierra Star Golf Course’s 8th hole. SJV units have a 10-foot easement.
Putting in a road in this location would also mean the removal of many trees.
Residents were also concerned about safety.
“Putting trails in puts us in a fishbowl,” said resident Donna Mercer, whose unit was broken into just last week. “As a taxpayer I would rather my money go to the police department than a road we don’t need.”
Mercer also questioned, with the Town’s current financial situation, where the money to maintain an emergency access road would come from. Not to mention the question of snow storage.
Another concern raised by golfing resident Eric Taylor was the abovementioned 8th hole on the Sierra Star Golf Course. If an emergency access road were to be constructed it may have to cut into this hole.
“The 8th hole is the single best chance to get an eagle [two under par on a hole] on the Sierra Star Golf Course,” Taylor said.
The second proposed road would go from East Bear Lake Drive up near Main Street, cutting behind building B of SJV. Again, road maintenance and snow storage were questioned.
Don Qualls, who lives in building B, also pointed out to The Sheet that the area behind his building is prime bear habitat.
“A lot of the footage for The Bear Whisperer was shot out there,” he said.
Mayor Jo Bacon requested that the item be tabled to the July 20 Town Council meeting. She asked staff to come back with new language and options regarding the roads at that time. While she was at it, Bacon also requested that staff look around town to determine whether or not there are other issues like this that may have been overlooked as one set of plans stopped and others started over the years.
Wardlaw agreed that the limited space near SJV was not appropriate for a trail. He believed the General Plan and Zoning Code goals for the Sierra Star NDP could be reached with a new trail alignment, potentially with a connection on the Main Street side of SJV.
Since the Sierra Stat NDP area is designated as Resort, it is expected to provide for “large scale community planning for various types of land use such as single-family and multi-family residential, office uses, hotels, recreational facilities and public/quasi public uses.” The Sierra Star NDP reaches from the entire area within the Lodestar Master Plan, extending north almost to Main Street, south to Meridian Boulevard, west to the Majestic Pines neighborhood, and east to the Sierra Valley Sites.