With no official policy in place, the Mammoth Town Council was asked to decide whether or not to accept the agreement between Mammoth Lakes Housing and Cypress Equities to allow the developer to pay the town $5.5 million rather than build affordable housing on site at the proposed Ritz Carlton hotel and condo project.
The town accepted a similar off site affordable housing agreement on the 8050 project, but believing that the Ritz Carlton deal was decided behind closed doors and railroaded through the Planning Commission, the Advocates for Mammoth appealed the planning commission decision.
The detractors of the plan were not necessarily against the merits of the deal, but John Walter with the Advocates for Mammoth explained to the council that the objection was that there was not enough public discussion, just one planning commission meeting, to decide if accepting cash for housing was good for the town.
Planning Commission Chairman, Roy Saari agreed with Walter, saying that the commission did not conduct a thorough enough debate over the in-lieu fees for the Ritz Carlton. We didn’t have the facts, he said. Planning Commissioner Jo Bacon agreed.
With two planning commissioners asking for more information, Mayor Skip Harvey said that while the plan to take money rather than housing might be a good plan, the process was flawed and that it seemed like the council was once again winging it, without a policy in place. He wanted the plan sent back for more debate at the Planning Commission.
Councilmember John Eastman said he felt that the Planning Commissioners had done their job properly. Other council members agreed. Skip Harvey was out-voted 4-1, the appeal was denied, and the Ritz Carlton can now proceed with the deal to pay the town $5.5 million to build affordable housing somewhere yet to be determined, but not on sight at the swank hotel/condo project.