A New Mammoth Lakes ordinance limits drone use
Drones are being restricted on Town of Mammoth Lakes land. The Town Council approved an ordinance at its Wednesday meeting to require a permit to fly a drone on Town owned land.
An ordinance already exists requiring a permit for planes and model rockets on town owned land. The council simply amended that ordinace to include drones.
Previously, a person could launch a drone on any property that they own or on town owned property, like Mammoth Creek Park, without consequence. That person can then fly their drone throughout the airspace of the town, as that airspace is not owned by the town. This airspace is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and according to the FAA it is illegal to shoot down a drone or any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.
Councilman John Wentworth had a couple of questions about the proposed ordinance: “Who is going to enforce this?”, “Has there been consultation with the Mammoth Lakes Ranger District of the United States Forest Service?”, “What happens when the drone flies over my house in my neighborhood?”
Parks and Recreation Director Stu Brown answered the first two. The police department and the parks staff will enforce the permitting, and there has not been consultation with the Forest Service.
The third question was more complicated. The permit will only allow people to fly drones over town-owned land, which essentially means parks. It does not permit people to fly over federal land or neighborhoods, but it also doesn’t bar that behavior. The Forest Service defers to the FAA, so the passage of this ordinance would have no affect on drone use over federal land. People can still freely fly drones over Horseshoe Lake.
As for neighborhoods, private land is not owned by the Town. Nothing in the ordinance prohibits people from flying drones over your house. A person can still legally launch a drone from their house and fly it over your house.
Though you cannot shoot that drone out of the sky, Councilman Bill Sauser recommended that, “You could launch your own drone and take it out.”
Betsy Truax of the Recreation Commission said that the town’s primary concern is to regulate this activity in town parks.
With the council’s 5-0 vote, a permit is required to launch a drone from, or fly a drone over, town owned land.
The Town Council approved a $400,000 contract with Lisa Wise Consulting to perform “Conceptual Land Use Planning” for The Parcel, also known as Shady Rest.
The Town acquired the 25-acre Parcel in March 2018 for approximately $6.5 million and plans to develop roughly 170 affordable housing units on the property.
This Conceptual Land Use Planning essentially has two parts to it, public outreach and a final plan. The public outreach portion should occur from May to August of 2019. It consists of one-on-one interviews with “stakeholders” as well as public outreach events and a cumulative “charrette,” occurring in July. A charrette was described by Community and Economic Development Director Sandra Moberly as a “all hands on deck” public engagement process, wherein all the consultants and town staff involved in the parcel planning will meet for four days with members of the public to nail down the priorities for The Parcel plan.
Grady Dutton said that a room in the town’s headquarters at Minaret Mall will be dedicated to The Parcel public engagement. The room on the second floor that will be used for this was filled with Christmas decorations that the mall used. It will now act as the location for Parcel meetings, it will be used by the consultants and the public during outreach meetings. Wentworth said that he wants the space to be a “crayon friendly space,” that will be good for, “breakout things, conceptual drawings.”
The final conceptual use plan will be presented to the town by Lisa Wise Consulting in November or December. It will essentially consist of drawings and a narrative on what should be built on these 25 acres.
Jessica Kennedy was appointed by the Mammoth Lakes Town Council on Wednesday to join the Planning and Economic Development Commission (PEDC).
She won out over a crop of three applicants, including herself, Dawn Vereuck, and Rhonda Duggan.
Kennedy submitted her application late and was almost not considered for the position. Mayor Cleland Hoff expressed her frustration over Kennedy’s lateness at the March 20 town council meeting.
“Deadlines are deadlines,” she said. “This is getting a little wishy washy… I’m all for moving ahead with this late application if this is the last time that we ever deal with a late application again.”
The council’s deliberation occurred publicly at Wednesday’s council meeting. Council members Stapp, Wentworth, and Salcido voted for Kennedy, Sauser and Hoff for Vereuck.
Kennedy currently works as a freelance writer creating marketing materials for companies. Prior to freelancing, she worked for Mammoth Lakes Tourism and the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce. On the PEDC board, she joins chair Michael Vanderhurst, who works for Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Paul Chang, Greg Eckert, and Jennifer Burrows.