In Mammoth Lakes, Clearwater Pushes for Double Density

After being delayed for months, the Clearwater Specific Plan came before the Mammoth Lakes Town Council on Dec. 3 in the form of a public hearing. It ended with a hang-up over density.

After Councilmember Jo Bacon recused herself because she owns property within 500 feet of the project, Town staff laid out the options before Council. There are three pieces to the Clearwater puzzle.

Assistant Planner Pam Kobylarz explained that Clearwater wants three things: a district zoning amendment, a General Plan amendment, and certification of the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Since the agenda was packed, the applicant had requested that a special meeting be held to discuss these items fully, but Mayor Wendy Sugimura decided to set two hours of the meeting on the third aside for the public to be able to speak.clearwater.jpg

The usual objections to height and density came forward from the public. The applicant agreed to come back with a height limit of 55 feet, which seemed to appease many. Density took center stage.

The applicant asked for 80 units per acre which is a request for double density on the project now allows 40 units per acre.

In order to get community benefits you have to make the project financially feasible, which equals density, said local lawyer Mark Carney who represents the project applicant Jim Demetriatus.

Drawing of Clearwater Project on Old Mammoth Rd.

The majority of Council, however, was nervous to just bump the density level up to double, especially before a study has been completed on where the town stands with People at One Time (PAOT).

What density is the right one to make the project pencil, asked Mayor Pro Tem Neil McCarroll. We cant just go from 40 to 80 we need to know the exact number.

Mayor Wendy Sugimura suggested that Council consider approving the Specific Plan at 40 units per acre until PAOT and incentive zoning are developed, which according to the Planning Department may not be until next spring.

Both Carney and McCarroll explained to Sugimura that capping at 40 units, even if it werent meant to be permanent, would essentially be denying the project.

My intent is to alleviate community fear, so I was thinking of starting at the bottom, Sugimura explained.

Council agreed to let Community Development Director Mark Wardlaw sit down with Carney and try to hash out an option that would accomplish Sugimuras intent but would not kill the project. They will bring their options back to the Dec. 17 Council meeting.

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