Tioga Inn public hearing is in Mammoth on June 29

By Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter

After several weeks of trying to find a Lee Vining location capable of handling a possibly rambunctious public hearing on a controversial project proposal during a pandemic, masks and social distancing required, Mono County had to settle for a site in Mammoth due to technical requirements.

The June 29 public hearing will be held to discuss a controversial project proposal to put a large, multi-unit housing complex near the current Mobil Mart/Whoa Nel- lie Deli area, located at the junction of U.S. 395 and the S.R. 120 West/Tioga Pass Road entrance to Yosemite National Park, just south of the community of Lee Vining.

The project, called the ‘Tioga Inn Specific Plan Amendment,’ proposes to build about a hundred units of employee and workforce housing at a site near the Mobil Mart (along with more infrastructure additions to the site) and has been in the planning and project development stage for several years now, with interruptions due to Covid-19 restrictions earlier this spring delaying the public hearing.

The long-term plan is that the complex will eventually house both local workers and families, and Yosemite National Park workers and families. Issues such as potential impacts to Lee Vining creek, increased traffic, air pollution, commuting issues and more have made this a controversial project, and the sheer size of the proposal – some 100 or so units of housing are proposed – is one of the single largest development proposed projects in the county in many years.

The public hearing will be during a ‘special’ Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting in Mammoth on Monday, June 29 on the second floor of the Vons mall (above The Chocolate Factory), in a room called ‘Suite Z’ which is commonly used for Mammoth Lakes Town Council meetings and which is also the center of the town’s emergency operations during many emergencies and as such, is equipped with the latest technology.

In this case, the supervisors have the final say on whether the project environmental analysis and plan moves forward and whether the project itself is approved.

County officials expressed deep regret that they could not find a suitable location in the Lee Vining area, which will be most impacted by the project.

“At the request of the community, Mono County has made a good-faith and exhaustive effort to schedule a hybrid Board of Supervisor’s meeting for the Tioga Inn Specific Plan Amendment public hearing that would have a physical location in Lee Vining and provide for participation by webinar in these Covid-19 times,” said Wendy Sugimura, the county’s senior planner. “Unfortunately, none of the available facilities in Lee Vining, including both the high school gymnasium and Lee Vining Community Center, have the necessary technological infrastructure to support the complex nature of a hybrid meeting.

“An apology goes out to the community that the original vision of a hybrid meeting in Lee Vining is not possible,” she said. ”Mono County sincerely wishes we could make it happen, but many times we have to work with constraints that are not under our control. We have done our best to meet the needs of commenting in person to the Board of Supervisors under Covid-19 circumstances, and all legal requirements for a public meeting are being met and exceeded.”

She said the county will, however, make sure that residents have at least some capacity to state their comments in person.

“Mono County continues, however, to be dedicated to providing an opportunity for personal testimony at a physical location (see below).”

She also said a “huge thank you” goes out to Heidi Torix and the Eastern Sierra Unified School District for being willing to offer Lee Vining High School, and to Mono County staff Nate Greenberg and Andy Liu for efforts to problem-solve the technology to hold the meeting.

Here are a few more details about the format of the Monday meeting:
• Masks will be required, along with hand sanitizing (available at Suite Z).
• A Covid-19 self-screening agreement for illness, exposure and symptoms must be
filled out at check-in, and passed, to enter the meeting.
• A one-hour break will be scheduled between the close of public comment and the
beginning of Board deliberation to ensure members of the public can return to a location where they can watch the proceedings.
• In order to ensure everyone desiring to comment in person has an opportunity, pre- registration will be required, and commenters will be assigned a time slot in groups of up to about 20 persons.
• Enough time slots will be provided to ensure all persons wishing to comment in person can do so.

When: June 29, 9:05 a.m
What: Tioga Inn Specific Plan Amendment #3 and Final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report Special Meeting of the Board of Supervisors
Where: Suite Z in Minaret Mall in Mammoth Lakes, 437 Old Mammoth Road. The physical meeting location can accommodate approximately 20 public persons at a time with six-foot physical distancing.
How: Webinair: https://zoom.us/join and enter Meeting ID: 984-7833-3904. Telecon- ference Information: (669) 900-6833 and enter Webinar ID 984-7833-3904.
For questions or concerns, contact Wendy Sugimura at 760-924-1814 or wsugimura@ mono.ca.gov.