Several property owners have complained that the Town of Mammoth Lakes are engaging in unfair billing practices that have left them feeling violated.
Local property owner Christopher Wiles said he felt “raped” when the Town charged him $375.62 from the $600 deposit he put down for an application to build several storage garages on a lot he owns behind the former Grumpy’s restaurant. The project did not come to fruition, and Wiles asked to withdraw his application.
“The Town charged me $375 for nothing,” he said. “When you have such things there as ‘Routing,’ $84, ‘File Notes,’ $10, ‘Professional Services,’ $88…’Questions from Applicant,’ ‘Withdrawal Discussion,’ ‘Withdrawal Letter.’ I didn’t ask for these things!”
Wiles sent over a copy of his bill to The Sheet from the Town of Mammoth Lakes, and most of the charges were for services were provided by Associate Planner Ruth Traxler.
“If this is a public office, if you’re employees who tax me [to pay your salary], something just seems wrong here,” said Wiles.
Dearing English, who appealed Mammoth’s Planning and Economic Development Commission’s denial of her request to turn the ground floor of her property at 3138 Main St., formerly the site of the Mammoth Mountaineering Supply store, into residential apartments, also reached out to The Sheet.
In an e-mail, English wrote “The Town bills citizens for staff time spent performing tasks within their job descriptions and for which they receive salaries, the Town bills citizens for staff time at a rate far in excess of staff salaries, [and] the Town bills citizens for staff time far in excess of hours actually worked.”
The Planning and Economic Development Commission, Community and Economic Development Manger and Town Council all denied English’s request for the Town to interpret the Zoning Code to allow ground floor residential use of her building. However, Town Council, who heard a final appeal, agreed that their hands were tied due to the Main Street Plan which does not allow residential occupancy on the ground floor of any building on Main Street and agreed to refund English’s appeal fees ($4,252), less staff time.
“However, the Town later billed that time at such excessive rates and in such excessive and inaccurate amounts, the time totaled $3,148.98, rendering the fee award essentially meaningless,” English told The Sheet.