NORTH SIERRA STRATEGIC PLAN GETS RAVE REVIEWS,
BUT NEXT STEPS TAKE BIG BUCKS
By Deb Murphy
The North Sierra Strategic Plan received rave reviews at both the Bishop City Council and Inyo County Board of Supervisors this week. The only issues with the consultant’s assessment of five potential multi-use sites was money and market demand.
Working with CalTrans grant funding, the project started with a corridor plan focusing on a pedestrian friendlier stretch of US Highway 395 from the Wye to Brockman Lane. The expanded plan honed in on five sites most easily developed with a combination of retail, service businesses and housing.
The five sites identified by the consultants RRM Design Group are the meat of the plan.
The vision for Site A, Bishop Plaza, would repurpose the existing buildings in the short-term. The long-term goal would include multifamily housing at the rear of the 8.3 acre parcel.
Site B is a vacant site at the northwest corner of the highway and Cherry and See Vee lanes. RRM envisioned office space facing the highway with storage units at the rear of the 2.3-acre parcel.
Site C, across the highway from B, would provide office space in the front with apartment buildings in the rear, plus a landscaped corner plaza.
The biggest parcel at 22 acres, Site D, runs from west of the Fairgrounds, past the Bishop Veterinary Hospital to an existing multi-use trail. Potential build-out would include the Mule Days Museum and commercial buildings fronting the highway with apartments and residential lots on the north side.
The consultants envisioned trucking and motorist services at Site E at the northwest corner of State Route 6 and Wye Road.
With the exception of the existing Bishop Plaza, all the potential sites are owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. According to Planning Department Director Cathreen Richards, the department is not averse to selling the land, but the process will take some time.
While the Supervisors applauded the plan, the issue was providing enough groundwork, including environmental work, to encourage investors and developers. Economic development studies done by the City of Bishop have indicated the community pulls from a reasonable population of shoppers stretching from Mammoth to Tonopah and beyond. But, the valley is bleeding money to Ridgecrest, Carson City and Lancaster.
Inyo’s Planning Department, the lead agency on the project that also includes the City of Bishop and Eastern Sierra Transit, gave the Board three options. The Supervisors chose two—sort of. The direction was to provide estimates to fully implement all five sites and to pursue a multi-jurisdictional comprehensive Specific Plan with an environmental review. In other words, figure out how much plan implementation would cost.