There’s a popular game being played on Facebook right now that relates to the places where people grew up. Basically it leads off with “You know you’re from [insert city] if …” and you are suppose to post something that only someone from that city would know. Sitting in a special Town Council meeting on Wednesday night, I came up with a new variation of this game after a surreal experience with a member of the Fifty.
“You know you are new to Mammoth Lakes if you unknowingly ask a staff member of the competing newspaper to send a picture she just took to your publication.”
I guess the camera, notebook and agenda packet on my lap wasn’t enough to give me away … perhaps in addition to adding a voice to their repertoire, they should add some eyes and ears, too.
A big issue in the development community lately has been whether or not the Town should do away with Developer Impact Fees as a means of economic stimulus. Council finally approved a resolution on Wednesday that temporarily waives DIF for one to four unit residential projects, commercial projects, and remodel projects for the next year, but man did it make the local contractors that came forward with the request work hard for it.
“We’ve been talking about getting rid of DIF since before my son was born,” said designer Craig Tapley. “He’s two and a half now.”
I asked Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw if the new waiver of fees would be applied to Mammoth View, which won approval from the Planning Commission for its Use Permit Application this week (see Geisel’s cover story).
“DIF is collected when the building permit fee is granted,” Wardlaw explained, “which is still a long way off for Mammoth View. But the waiver would not apply to them. Mammoth View is considered hotel and residential, but it doesn’t fit small residential [one to four units] or commercial.”
He pointed to the Mammoth Rock ‘N Bowl project as an example of what the resolution meant by commercial, while the residential and remodel components relate more to single-family homes and small condo complexes.
Wardlaw, however, pointed out that there is a Town policy that allows developers to negotiate DIF, outside of Wednesday’s resolution, if their project generates TOT.
So Mammoth View could still work their way out of having to pay, or at the very least receive a reduction.
Interesting that Town policy already had a loophole for big development while the little guys have been begging and pleading for help.
Too bad it seems our Facebook game phrase will always read, “You know you live in Mammoth Lakes if the guy from out of town always has more leverage than you do.”
And from Geisel’s desk …
Fire department cost recovery
As an addendum to my report in the July 16 issue, titled “The States of California,” specifically the segment on collections agencies billing for public services, Long Valley Fire Chief Fred Stump pointed out that the district does have an agreement with a private company to bill for certain services. The purpose in this case, he said, isn’t to make a profit, but to cover costs of services.
In Mono County, Stump explained that fire departments cover a miniscule amount of the county’s total area. Often departments are sent out beyond district boundaries. The county assumes no responsibility, because it isn’t mandated by the state to provide fire services. (The county does operate a paramedic program, which also isn’t state mandated.)
“Taxpayers pay to have services within their district boundaries, not in other parts of the county,” he said. “We respond to vehicle incidents on Benton Crossing Road, Sherwin Grade, etc., and lots of places the fire department goes aren’t covered by any taxpayers dollars.” The district, he indicated, will respond to the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab, which is on DWP land, the Mammoth Airport, which is a Town of Mammoth Lakes property, and Tom’s Place, which is on a Forest Service lease. All pay no revenues to the state for fire protection services.
Financial challenges to fire department funding, Stump cited, include increased processing fees for Mono property taxes and other money diversions in Sacramento. Mono County has 11 fire districts, five of which operate on annual budgets of $100,000 or less.
Stump said that structural fires within the district wouldn’t generate a bill; that’s covered as part of the district protection. “If we have a fire on Sherwin Grade, we’re going to get insurance information and turn it over to a collection agency and see if we can get something back to cover costs,” he said, adding that if a fire at SNARL, for example, lasts longer than an hour, the University of California will also get a bill. The billing company used in this case, however, submits the bill to insurance; if payment is made, they take their cut and forward the remaining funds. Stump said the company wouldn’t go to court or file liens, etc. for nonpayment.
And from Vane’s desk …
Resort Investment Element goes through the ringer
Tuesday’s Recreation Commission meeting was derailed by an innocuous followup presentation on the Resort Investment Element by Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw. The new element didn’t go over particularly well at a Joint Commission meeting July 27, and this week Recreation Vice-Chair Teri Stehlik was the first to voice her continued concern that the Resort Investment Element was “a lot of language, but it just directs you to another planning process, not an outcome.”
Vice-Chair Tony Colasardo added, “It’s a plan about a plan, rather than just making a plan.”
Wardlaw defended the element, arguing that it was intended to help discipline a decision-making process for town projects that, in the past, was “ad-hoc and disjointed.” No one argued with that, but by the end of a 90-minute discussion, few Recreation Commissioners seemed to be convinced that the document would be effective.
Some of the questions they had: “When does the public get involved in the decision-making process, and how are their priorities voiced?” “Is recreation going to get lost in other priorities, like the airport and mobility?” “What about demand for these projects? Where in this document is there a strategy for determining demand, not just cost?”
Wardlaw didn’t precisely answer any of these questions, but pointed out that the new element is only one part of the General Plan, which is itself “intentionally general.” His greatest endorsement, and not a very stirring one: “If we had this [Resort Investment Element] 10, 15, 20 years ago, we’d probably be a little more effective in our decision-making.”
The new element will continue on to the Planning Commission for review, then to the Town Council for recommendations sometime in September.