Debate over the proposed subdivision of the Danhakl Parcel along Old Mammoth Road, Tamarack and Carter Street continued at the Sept. 11 Planning and Economic Development Commission (PEDC) meeting. Jim Danhakl, who owns the lot with his brother, presented the tentative parcel map for the proposed subdivision to the PEDC in June. At that time, neighbors and other community members had strong objections. Many expressed concerns about the effect a subdivision might have on the wetland area on the Danhakl Parcel, familiar to neighbors and visitors as a lush, open meadow that once supported horses.
The proposed subdivision would split the approximately 2.44 acre lot in two, with the existing family home on Parcel 1, and the tack room/garage, corral, majority of the driveway and wetland meadow on Parcel 2. Although Danhakl repeatedly pointed out that neither he nor anyone else is yet proposing any development on Parcel 2, the subdivision would facilitate a development that, with easements and setbacks, could be as large as about 3,000 square feet.
In June, Danhakl assured the audience and Commission that he had no intention of allowing any development that would disturb the wetland meadow. He offered to consult with the Eastern Sierra Land Trust (ESLT) to discuss a possible conservation easement as a method of preservation in perpetuity. However, at the Sept. 11 meeting, Danhakl admitted that this process was taking longer than anticipated. “I wanted to fast track this,” he said. “It was my mistake for not understanding how these things move. It’s a 6-18 month process; almost as glacial as trying to get your parcel subdivided.”
ESLT Lands Director Aaron Johnson addressed the Commission on the Trust’s findings thus far. “Based on what little we do know, a conservation easement may not be the best option. Easement with a third party is very complex and costly. There could be a simpler tool.”
Should the conservation easement with ESLT fail to materialize, Danhakl restated his intent to look into “an outright donation to the City.” Mammoth would then provide stewardship over the land.
Associate Planner Jen Daugherty also offered further conditions of approval for the tentative parcel map. Any development, she said, would necessitate the review and approval of a design review permit by the Community and Economic Development Commission Design Committee. The Committee would require that, under General Plan policies, the development would “avoid wetland disturbance to the greatest degree possible,” and maintain open space around slopes that exceed 20-25%, stream and scenic corridors, and wetland areas, Daugherty said.
Yet residents continued to express their fears about approving the tentative parcel map without a conservation easement, a donation, or specific language in the title to protect the wetlands. As these residents argued in June, without a specific method of protection for the wetlands, eventual development impacts to the wetlands could be mitigated off-site. This occurred in 1994, when the Planning Commission approved a Mitigation Negative Declaration for a grading permit for the construction of the current, single-family residence on the Danhakl Parcel. Because the project necessitated filling a portion of the wetlands, the Lahontan Regional Water Control Board, Department of Fish and Game, and Mammoth Community Water District required the property owner to provide wetland mitigation off-site. That mitigation occurred at Laurel Pond.
“I met with Jim Danhakl at the meadow site and I believe he’s well-intentioned,” said Jeff Boucher, who owns the property adjacent to the meadow. “But I would like to see something in the title regarding the preservation of the meadow before the parcel is divided.”
Steve Schwind agreed: “I can support and live with the subdivision, but I hope that before you approve it, we can find a third way to protect the meadow. That meadow is an anchor in the community,” he added.
PEDC Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney also voiced her discomfort with approving the tentative parcel map. “I have concerns about approving the subdivision, even though the consensus of the neighbors is building,” she said. “I’ve been up here for 12 years, and I’ve been burned before because I voted for something before assurance was given.” Tenney noted that the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the parcel still provides a potential developer with the opportunity for mitigation “banking,” which allows for mitigation off-site. “Before this is approved, I would like to see the letter of intent from both Mr. Danhakl and his brother for preserving the wetlands, and the various ways in which you could do it,” she said.
Daugherty pointed out that a letter of intent could be a condition of approval for the final parcel map, which would come back before the PEDC for review.
“I can have a letter of intent to you by Friday,” Danhakl offered. “I will [submit it] regardless of whether the Commission approves today. You’ll get one in quick order, or my name is mud.”
Tenney moved that the Commission continue the discussion to the next PEDC meeting on Sept. 25. With no other option, having only three Commissioners to vote on the issue (Commissioner Collin Fernie was absent; Commissioner David Harvey recused himself as a neighbor within 300 feet of the Parcel), Vice Chair Mickey Brown gave a grudging second.