By Deb Murphy
Mammoth Lake’s multi-use facility (aka the ice rink) got the green light at last Wednesday night’s Town Council meeting, by a 3-2 vote. The rink and community center project now heads into the design and environmental analysis phase.
After an hour of public comments, weighted heavily against the Mammoth Creek Park West site, not the concept, council members split, not on the site but the cost. Councilmembers John Wentworth and Shields Richardson both argued the funds and time may be better spent “acquiring additional lands” for the town. “We live in a constrained land mass,” said Wentworth.
Mayor Michael Raimondo seemed to teeter. “We don’t have any money, it’s that simple. For the last four years, all we’ve done is cut.” But, he expressed his approval of the $2 million project, just asking that the $150,000 cost of the environmental documents and design not come out of the Public Works budget, sending councilmembers into a discussion of funding sources. The conclusion: monies could be used from Measure R or the town’s Mello-Roos Community Facilities District accounts.
A pall, of sorts, fell over the Council discussion when the cost of defending the town against potential law suits was brought up. That estimate: $100,000.
Bill Raff, homeowners’ association president at La Vista Blanc, a condo complex that abuts the park, started the lawsuit discussion. Referring to a 1999 Environmental Impact Report on an earlier rink/community center project at MCPW, Raff noted “a lot of major mitigation required.” “If we’re not satisfied,” he said, “we’ll do what we have to do to mitigate…. The lighting, noise and parking” issues.
The pro and con arguments have all been aired before. Those against cited the lighting-noise-parking problems, strongly suggesting relocation to Mammoth Creek Park East, owned by the U.S. Forest Service, or an “industrial/commercial area” as recommended by Raff. Robin Bell suggested the project was like jamming a square peg in a round hole. The rink was also compared to a WalMart. Sharon Clark warned the Council to slow down on the project.
On the pro side, Tom Johnson, a project task force member, admitted he was skeptical at the outset but after going through the site review process “there was no close second.” Another task force member said MCPW was identified as an active-use park from the beginning.
“South Lake Tahoe operates an ice rink successfully,” said Jay Cole, “with 71-percent of its revenues made during 8-percent of its operating hours” hosting tournaments.
During the Council discussion, Colin Fernie stressed the importance of improving the town’s amenities, driving more visitation and providing a better resort experience. City Manager Dan Holler and Public Works Director Grady Dutton both said the city would continue to engage the community in the design phase.