The Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission held a special workshop Tuesday evening to reintroduce the town’s ongoing Main Street redevelopment plan process and associated zoning code update.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area CEO Rusty Gregory and Chadmar Group President Chuck Lande introduced the first real concept for Main Street in 2009. As envisioned at the time by architects Hart-Howerton, it included a makeover of Main and a pitch for a gondola that would link Main Street with the Village at Mammoth and MMSA’s Main Lodge.
Associate Planner Jessica Morris led the discussion, which covered zoning, transit and general development concepts, with the long-term goal of making sure those concepts work in both the physical and financial “real world.” On hand were consultants from Dyett & Bhatia, who spoke on zoning, and Winter & Company, who addressed Main Street planning.
In the zone
Speaking on zoning, Martha Miller with Dyett & Bhatia said there are three main approaches: Euclidean, which is use-based, i.e. residential as opposed to commercial; Performance, which lets the public decide what it wants to achieve; and Physical Form, or how does building relate to the public forum. “Zoning is basically being a good neighbor, but form is important,” Miller posited.
She said that upon review of Mammoth’s rather dated zoning code, items such as setbacks, build-to line standard, height regulations and public gathering area regulations all need refining. Standards, she suggested, should be “clear, measureable and implementable, as properties come up for development.” Miller also recommended consolidating certain items, such as grouping entrance standards for various buildings all in one place instead of in several different subsections.
In terms of street retail and public access uses, Miller stated that tiered setbacks are hard to achieve, and she appeared to be no fan of the “standard, tiered wedding cake design.” She further asserted that 40-foot setbacks for parking limit site development potential, and that primary and secondary retail streets might need separate build-to standards, instead of a one-fits-all blanket code.
The Main event
Switching to the Main Street plan, Winter & Company President Nore Winter cited ideas successfully employed by other communities, such as relocating buildings in front and parking in the rear with room for active areas. Given that Main Street has frontage roads on both sides, those types of ideas will have to be a bit different, but the point is that thinking outside the box can yield positive results. “This is not a name change, not a ‘save as’ opportunity,” he said.
“Buildings frame space and should act as transitions to the residential areas behind them,” he opined, describing Main Street as the “edge” with other uses behind it. A good urban project, he theorized, has no “backside area,” but is rather a “coordinated complex.”
Winter addressed the issue of structured parking, referring to it not as a land use, but as a support to other land uses. He explained that Boulder, Colo., set up a “parking special district” to help the city issue bonds. Parking structures could have facades that tie in to the rest of the block. “Variations in building mass can help determine the rhythm and scale,” he noted. “You can do that without being phony or like Disneyland.”
Based on experiences with a similar project in downtown Truckee, Calif., Winter said the concept could still work with both property owners who are not interested in redevelopment and those who have parking in front and want to keep it that way. “It doesn’t mean the concept won’t work, it just has to be flexible enough. It’s not a slam dunk, but the town has good bone structure.”
The private sector, he thinks, will do a “huge amount,” but the public sector will need to set up a framework as a complement. That could, he forecast, include a mix of assessment programs, business improvement districts and civic project grants. The town, he added, should also be prepared to scale back and set priorities. “The current vision plan you simply can’t afford,” he stated. Snow management is step one, Winter concluded, and nothing will happen until that is worked out.
During public comment, property owner Gerry McCarty said he thinks the Town has an “underlying reputation to address,” describing a perception that property developers were all making millions, all the while taking and never giving which he takes issue with. “Developers offered to provide amenities, and always got a negative response from the Town,” he said. He also thinks development has been lopsided, favoring “one condo after another” with few adequate hotels.
Camille Miller, current owner of the old Kentucky Fried Chicken building at 3163 Main Street, said she’s been trying to open a business (Mammoth Fun Shop) and redevelop the building, and sees a systemic problem that calls for too many “public needs” on a small parcel owner. Miller read off a laundry list of items she’s been charged with having, such as Americans With Disabilities access, sprinklers, parking, dumpsters and two restrooms in a building with a mere 1,500 square feet of commercial space.
Miller suggested the litany of regulations amounts to “obsoleting” [sic]our parcels. “There needs to be a balance struck with existing parcel sizes. We could have outdoor service areas and small parks instead of more parking spaces, which just takes up usable space and isn’t reasonable.”
Miller said there should be a way to link neighboring business together and create a “no business is an island” attitude.
Commission Chair Rhonda Duggan said she sees potential for “many master plans within this district.” Referring to an idea Winter mentioned earlier likening parts of Main Street to sausage links, she favors a phased approach, as opposed to the decidedly discontinuous “slice and dice” fashion in which Main Street has been hacked together. Commissioner Colin Fernie said that an important step in his view is finding the “catalyst” business or part of Main Street that serve as an epicenter.
Final Planning Commission work on zoning is anticipated by June 2013. A public meeting with Dyett & Bhatia is being scheduled for sometime in April, agenda and date still TBD. As to the plan itself, Winter & Company will meet with the public in a series of workshops April 2-4, to look at their suggested concepts, alternatives and phasing timeline. Nore said he would like to have a final draft plan by December 2013, and a final Main Street Implementation Plan ready for adoption consideration by December 2014.