Business owners say no to minimum FAR
On Wednesday, The Town of Mammoth Lakes (TOML) Planning and Economic Development Commission (PEDC) held a joint workshop with Mammoth’s Town Council. The purpose of the workshop was to reach consensus about whether or not a zoning code amendment should be adopted to impose a minimum floor to area ratio (FAR) in the commercial districts in Mammoth Lakes.
According to PEDC Chairperson Amy Callahan, the PEDC has been deliberating over a minimum FAR for nearly two years. The FAR of a building is equal to the total floor area of a building divided by the total area of the lot on which it is located. Minimum FARs discussed at the March 14 PEDC meeting ranged from 0.5 to 0.75. The PEDC decided for the fourth time since December to ask staff for more information before making a decision.
At this meeting, Council and PEDC members agreed that a plan for parking has to be dealt with before a minimum FAR can be imposed. There was consensus that if in lieu fees for parking were to be imposed, they would go to a separate fund to be used for planned parking projects within a reasonable time frame of a project’s construction. Referring to the fact that this didn’t work out in The Village, Mayor Shields Richardson said, “Hopefully our town doesn’t continue to make the same mistakes… parking is an important part of the vision of what we are trying to do.”
There were about 22 members of the public in attendance at the workshop, several of whom were property owners on Main Street. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (MMSA) CEO Rusty Gregory was present along with VP of Development Tom Hodges.
Former Mayor and Main Street business owner Kathy Cage said that if a minimum FAR is imposed, public-private partnerships will be needed to provide the required parking downtown. “The parking requirements for The Village are half of what they are in Old Mammoth, and Intrawest couldn’t even afford that. If you had an in lieu fee substantial enough to actually create parking, people would just build their own, and if the standard remains so high as to require developers on Main Street to provide twice the parking allotted in The Village, it will be cost prohibitive.”
Council Member Bill Sauser said that the existing codes are onerous enough for developers, and that a minimum FAR would only add to the long list of regulations small business owners have to contend with to redevelop their properties. Local realtor Matthew Lehman said, “What if you just want to rebuild your building because it is at the end of its useful life?” Camille Miller, co-owner of the Mammoth Fun Shop, the smallest parcel on Main Street, asked that the PEDC and Council consider raising density allowances instead of imposing requirements. One attendee said, “What we really need is a huge fire to just take this whole town out so we can rebuilt everything.”
Gregory said, “For us to achieve a vision, we have