By Deb Murphy
Inyo County’s Board of Supervisors had an action-packed agenda last Tuesday. Here are some of the highlights:
After a series of discussions on consultation protocol with the County’s Tribes, Inyo’s Planning Department came up with a process that met the needs of both the County and area reservations.
The next step is to customize procedures with the five Tribes, each of whom will have two Supervisors participating in those consultations: Dan Totheroh and Rick Pucci, Bishop Paiute Tribe; Mark Tillemans and Totheroh, Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley; Fort Independence Paiute Tribe, Matt Kingsley and Tillemans and the Timbisha-Shoshone Tribe, Jeff Griffiths and Kingsley. The Native American Heritage Commission has offered training to the Supervisors.
The County’s interim ordinance prohibiting new non-groundwater-neutral agriculture around Pearsonville was extended for a second year. The issue came up when inquiries were made by a pistachio farmer; the area is in the Indian Wells Groundwater Basin, designated in critical over-draft. The basin’s Groundwater Sustainability Agency is working on a plan to achieve sustainability by 2020 under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
The Supervisors voted to go ahead with public hearings, or a call for projects vying for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants.
The one misgiving was an increased workload for a short-staffed Planning Department. Planner Cathreen Richards explained even if other entities applied for and wrote their own grants, the department would have to oversee and verify.
When asked, she said the department did have the capacity to hold the hearings and could probably work on grants. One primary project would be the Lone Pine water system. The first hearing would focus an overview of the grant process; the second would be project-specific. “It’s important to hold the hearings,” said Chair Jeff Griffiths. “It’s an opportunity to do some good. It’s up to us to be judicious in the choice of projects.”
Richards presented the alternatives available for the County to deal with short-term rentals – think Airbnb, people renting their homes, or parts of their homes, to visitors. Currently, the practice of renting for less than 30 days is not allowed in the County, but the practice still goes on and has generated complaints from neighbors.
According to Richards, staff has also received inquiries from homeowners wanting to do short-term rentals legally. While nobody was tickled with the practice, the consensus was to figure out a way to allow short-term rentals with the least impact on neighborhoods.
The conclusion was Conditional Use Permits with specific restrictions and a strong public outreach program. Richards explained the permits go through the Planning Commission, requiring a public process and the imposition of restrictions.