On Wednesday, Mammoth’s Planning and Economic Development Commission considered a proposed North Village Specific Plan Amendment that would have facilitated Skadi owner and chef Ian Algeroen’s restaurant taking over the former Mammoth Brewing Company space on Berner Street.
Mammoth Brewing Company moved from its Berner Street location to the former Whiskey Creek building earlier this year. Because of North Village Specific Plan (NVSP) use regulations, the move required the Planning Commission to determine that the Brewing Company had a similar and no more detrimental effect than a restaurant.
Determining that Algaroen’s restaurant had a similar and no more detrimental effect than a tasting room proved more perplexing.
According to Senior Planner Sandra Moberly, the NVSP prohibits a restaurant at Berner Street unless it resides within a hotel. Moberly explained that this is because the NVSP looks forward to a time when the current Berner Street properties would be demolished, and a “Vista Point” condominium project built in their place.
Fm Mammoth LLC proposed the Vista Point project in 2009, but when it plans to move forward with the project is anyone’s guess. (Moberly could not provide contact information for Fm Mammoth LLC, which has a registered address in Fountain Hills, Arizona.)
In April of this year, Town Council requested staff pursue an amendment to the NVSP that would allow Algeroen to take over the Berner Street space. While the Town is currently processing Algeroen’s building permit, he could not use the space without such an amendment, said Moberly.
The NVSP Amendment would allow additional uses within the ‘Specialty Lodging’ zone of the NVSP, an 18.9-acre area within the 64.1-acre North Village. Specialty Lodging sites are peppered throughout the Village along Lake Mary Road, Minaret Road, Canyon Boulevard, and Berner Street.
The Amendment would open these sites up to retail, restaurants, and service uses (i.e. laundromat, copying), subject to a use permit. The current NVSP only allows uses such as lodges, bed and breakfasts, resort condominiums, employee housing, recreational uses, and public facilities.
The NVSP Amendment would also allow new businesses to be grandfathered in, if their use was the same as the previous tenant. For instance, a new restaurant would not have to apply for a use permit or design review permit when taking over a space formerly occupied by a restaurant.
“One of the things I have concern with is that we’re taking an area [18.9 acres of Specialty Lodging] originally planned as a buffer zone, and moving it into intensified use,” said Commissioner Dave Harvey.
Harvey noted that opening up 18.9 acres to commercial development would likely only exacerbate the current parking problem in the Village.
Commissioner Elizabeth Tenney added her concern that same-use applicants would have no use and design review permit requirements. “I’m troubled by the way this was done,” she concluded. “One application [Algeroen’s] prompted review and an amendment?”
Chair Mickey Brown called for a more thorough review to determine potential impacts from opening up 18.9 acres for commercial development, before the Planning Commission could again consider the Amendment.
The Commission’s general arguments left the specific applicant frustrated.
Algeroen argued that his new restaurant would neither detract from the Village, nor add to the Village parking problem.
“I’m simply trying to relocate my restaurant to another space,” he said. “I see this as a food service facility to replace a food service facility … My space is half the size, in terms of parking; it will be a night time business; and it won’t have an impact on the other businesses there.”
Algeroen pointed out that there are 34 parking spots available in front of the Berner St. properties, and that his restaurant, per the Town’s calculation, would only use 11 spaces.
Community Skis owner Michael Lish also wondered why the Planning Commission believed Berner St. businesses would add to the Village parking problem.
“When you created the Amendment, the [Berner St.] building had already been there for 34 years,” he said. “This wasn’t an amendment to create a new opportunity, it was an amendment to justify an existing reality.”
Moreover, he added, “If we don’t get this Amendment, what happens to us? If we’re not rezoned, do all of our businesses suddenly get cancelled?”
Commissioners quickly dispelled this notion. Chair Brown explained that while the Berner St. area is technically nonconforming, the Town has essentially looked the other way for so long that “the issue is when you want to change the use,” she said.
“Nonconforming use can continue, if it’s continuing in the same spot, and as long as the prior use didn’t discontinue for more than one year,” Moberly elaborated.
Given this criteria, “How did this Brewery get signed off?” Algeroen wondered. Commissioners and staff could not supply an answer.
The Commission voted to continue the issue to a future meeting, requesting additional information on nonconforming issues, parking, and the rationale behind waiving the use and design review permit requirements for new businesses.