If you’re wondering what they’re doing up there on Canyon Blvd. just down from the Westin Monache, they (hotel developers based out of Aspen, Colo.) are planning to build a 151-room, fancy-ass hotel, the likes of which we’ve never seen around here.
But developers of the Limelight Hotel project had one final hurdle to clear at Wednesday’s meeting of the Mammoth Lakes Town Council – resolution of three appeals of the project.
The appeals came from Mammoth Community Water District, former Mayor Jo Bacon and the Westin homeowners’ association.
The MCWD and Bacon appeals focused on the developer’s plans to a proposed geothermal system on site, which they feared could potentially contaminate the town’s water supply.
MCWD dropped its appeal before the hearing because Limelight decided to drop the geothermal plan – for now.
So the development will proceed along parallel tracks. The hotel itself being one component, and the geothermal being handled separately.
It will collaborate with the MCWD on any potential plans moving forward.
Limelight, which has developed hotels in Aspen, Snowmass and Sun Valley, prides itself on its environmental bent, but it appears it will look for other ways to satisfy this itch.
The Westin homeowners’, represented by one of their own, Bruce Favish, at the hearing, counted the geothermal as one of several items they could do without.
Honestly, it just seems like they wish the whole thing would disappear, and seeing how that is not an option, Favish demanded Westin homeowners be included in every decision and detail moving forward.
Problem is, the project has asked for no variances, and the Limelight has already accommodated its neighbors by making requested cosmetic and architectural changes.
So Favish and fellow homeowners ultimately dropped their appeal because they didn’t have a leg left to stand on.
That left the Bacon appeal, which Council was forced to vote on because Bacon is out of the country and could not be reached.
Council voted unanimously to deny the appeal though Councilman Wentworth included a caveat that Bacon’s fee to file the appeal be refunded.
MCWD and the Westin homeowners’ did not have their appeal fees refunded.
Local resident Leslie Lawrence did make public comment expressing her displeasure over the project and wrote the paper afterwards
“Having grown up in the Town of Mammoth Lakes … since 1968, the FACT of employee housing, or the total lack thereof… yes, I know this is not the first time this has been mentioned. The FACT that The Limelight is a monstrosity with zero character, being built well above any height levels AND without, from what I understand an EIR (environmental impact report) AND their plan to drill down in to the aquifer are all and each issues that should be screaming across our town limits and to the tops of each of our mountains.
That this town’s council has allowed and is allowing this behemoth to be built is atrocious. That ANYONE thinks that drilling into ANY aquifer when … this town is built on an earthquake fault … we are staring down the throat of a very angry and ugly drought. The drought, in and of itself, SHOULD say STOP! The footprint and elevation of this proposed structure is obscene. The exterior of this structure is easily found on the blocks of L.A … Oakland … any city USA. This proposed building as per the rendering found online is, hmmm ugly. If those of us who LIVE in and LOVE Mammoth Lakes and the fact that we live in one of the most beautiful locations on our earth wished to have a hotel/condo structure that can and is found in any urban area of this country … I’m guessing we would move to one of those urban jungles.
We are a town that contains a number of vacant structures … VACANT for some years in most cases. The hotel meant to be built in Sierra Center Mall … still, a mostly vacant building.
The building on Old Mammoth Road that holds a 24 hour laundromat … almost entirely vacant. The complete stripping of forest on Center Street which now houses a … 200 ft long and 40 ft high wall, meant to be “low cost” housing and which was clear cut regardless the fact that trees there supported OUR wildlife including a family of bears that had used that tree for years. Will it be, in fact, a place for many of the town’s employees or, like The Trails (passed as being built for low income housing and quickly having been turned into custom homes)?
The Friends of Mammoth studies and final report needs to be clearly reviewed by each of the Town Council, the town attorney, the architect, the Limelight Hotel group … on and on.
Can ANYONE on the council, in the town … ANYONE help the citizens of this town?”
Of course, the opening stanzas of Dylan’s “Times They Are a Changin’” immediately come to mind.
Come gather ‘round people/Wherever you roam/And admit that the waters/Around you have grown/And accept it that soon/You’ll be drenched to the bone …
When Lawrence asked in the meeting, “where will the water come from?” Community Development Director Sandra Moberly replied that the hotel is included in the town’s build-out analysis.
The “behemoth” conforms to the North Village Specific Plan in every respect.
I imagine Councilmembers would argue that they’re trying to help the citizens of this town by building workforce housing at the Parcel.
I imagine Parcel neighbors Marlene and Dieter Fiebiger would say “A pox on your help.”
The population of the United States was approximately 200.7 million in 1968. Today, it is 334.8 million. That’s really the crux of it.
Can anyone help? I dunno. Marty McFly?
In other Council news of note, Council formally approved its agreement with the Mammoth Lakes Foundation to take over the Edison Theater. The Town will pay $2,250/month in rent to start.
Luan Mendel, who serves on the Foundation’s Executive Committee, said “this is a unique opportuity for a public/private partnership. The two events [Mammoth Lakes Film Festival and a Hank Williams tribute show] held thus far [under the Town’s banner] have shown it can be workable.”
Executive Committee members Gary Myers and Shields Richardson also chimed in to voice support.
A second part of the agreement allows for the Town to use available Foundation property (~27 acres) for a performing arts center, housing, a child care center, snow storage and more.
During public comment, Tony Taylor said, “I applaud the approach being taken.” But, he wondered, “Was an acquisition considered? This seems like the tail wagging the dog.”
Taylor’s point being, if the Town is taking the lead on all these programs and amenities, what’s the point of the Foundation still owning the property?
Mammoth Lakes Town Manager Dan Holler replied that if the Town acquired the property, it would make it very difficult for the foundation to fulfill its mission.
Translation: The land and buildings are the last vestige of the Foundation’s relevance.
Mendel had it half-right. This isn’t a public/private partnership so much as public/zombie [corp.] partnership. Though to be fair, rent received from the theater and snow storage will far outstrip the money the Foundation’s been able to raise the past few years.
In the near-term, one of the more interesting aspects of the deal is the child care component. Holler said the Town plans to import/repurpose some of the portable classrooms formerly used at Mammoth High School and place them on Foundation property. It’s estimated the new facility could accommodate more than 100 children.
According to the staff report in Council’s agenda, the last analysis conducted of local childcare needs showed a deficit of 231 spots.
In terms of foot-in-mouth moments, Brent Truax had a pretty good one Wednesday as the Town was honoring retiring Parks and Recreation
Truax, speaking on behalf of Sean Turner, who had served on the commission since 2009, joked, “Hey Sean, I’ve got a Coors Light waiting for you out in my truck.”
Just what a guy who brews craft beer for a living wants to celebrate with – a Coors Light.
My other favorite Truax moment from Wednesday was his speaking on behalf of the Limelight project. I couldn’t help but think he was trolling for a job.
As for Betsy Truax, she stepped down from the Parks and Recreation Commission having served as Chair for the past eight years.
It is widely believed that she plans to run for a seat on Mammoth’s Town Council this fall.
Speaking of which, Town Clerk Jamie Gray said the dealine to file for a Council seat is August 12 – August 17 if an incumbent does not file, which is anticipated because Lynda Salcido is leaving to become a Mono County Supervisor.
Town Manager Dan Holler talked about an uptick in local Covid cases in his staff report, saying case numbers had doubled and were in the mid-40s last week.
There were also a few hospitalizations.
The Mammoth Shakespeare Festival had to cancel shows on Wednesday and Thursday due to a Covid outbreak within the cast, but should resume its performance schedule on Friday.
And Mammoth’s Council has made a little lemonade out of the former ice rink site behind the Mammoth Library.
On Wednesday, it voted to turn the existing concrete slab into one regulation tennis court and two pickleball courts.
Recreation Manager Stu Brown believes the courts can be done by this summer at minimal cost.
It’ll be on a year-to-year lease arrangement with the school district.
If/when the school district decides to use the property for its own ends, the Town will be on the hook to remove the slab and restore the property. Holler said current estimates pin that cost at approximately $100,000.
Citizen Sandy Hogan urged Council not to forget about the sad plight of its current tennis courts – two of the six community courts are closed and another two have earthquake fault-type cracks running through them.
Redoing all six courts will cost $1 million easy.
Finally, a few more observations from the vault courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.
The first is from the May 28-29 issue, and was titled “Why Most Pastors Avoid Politics.”
It caught my eye seeing as Bishop’s ministerial association was very vocal during the Pride Month discussions.
The article said, “Research shows that only a very small fraction of American pastors invoke politics from the pulpit.”
A 2019 survey found just 25% had heard a sermon about gay rights. Or abortion.
Only 16% had heard Trump’s name evoked from the pulpit.
But then it goes on to say that “some have done so [invoke politics] to raise the profile of the church.”
The risk is that being overtly political means you’re not casting as wide a net. “It impedes the ability of the church to attract new members for long-term, sustainable growth.”
But my take is that in the short-term, if membership is lagging and you’re worried about survival, there is a tendency to appeal to whatever is perceived as the core constituency.
But the article cleverly leaves off with a story about basketball superstar Michael Jordan. When asked why he wasn’t more political, Jordan replied, “Because Republicans buy sneakers, too.”
The second article was an editorial titled “Germany’s Energy Surrender” which presciently appeared in the Dec. 23, 2021 edition.
Ten years ago, Germany had 17 nuclear reactors. By the time the editorial was written, there were just three left, and all were expected to close by 2022. These reactors formerly produced a quarter of Germany’s electricity.
“Berlin, at the self-made mercy of the sun and wind, is now deepening its reliance on Russian gas to keep the lights on. This is the background explanation for its weak response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”
This was pre-invasion.
Post-invasion, there was an editorial entitled “A Lesson in Energy Masochism” which appeared in the March 2 edition.
In 2020, Russia exported nearly three times more gas than Europe produced.
“A decade ago, multinational evergy companies including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell and TotalEnergies were exploring Europe’s unconventional gas deposits with ambitions to repeat the U.S. shale boom. Then protests against fracking erupted across the continent, and one by one European governments surrendered to Russian energy dominance.
Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen blamed Russia for fueling the fracking opposition. ‘Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations – environmental organizations working against shale gas – to maintain dependence on imported Russian gas.’”
Finally, in the May 17 issue, there was a story about Wildfire Risk Modeling from an entity called the First Street Foundation.
It found that 1.5 million properties in the U.S. have 26% risk of wildfire over the next 30 years.
2.7 million have a 14-26% risk.
6 million have a 6-14% risk.
20.2 million have a 1-6% risk.
49.4 million have deemed risk of less than 1%.
The article stated that the website realtor.com has future plans to incorporate wildfire-risk data in its home listings.
*Sorry for delayed delivery of paper this week. Breakfast in Carlsbad with daughter on Friday takes precedence.