Action alert: Threat to scenic Mono Basin, letters needed by August 21August 15th, 2019 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
August 22 update: Over 700 comment letters submitted about the proposed Tioga Inn project
The Mono Lake Committee is encouraging people who value the Mono Basin to submit a comment letter regarding the Draft SEIR for the Tioga Inn, which has “6 significant unavoidable adverse impacts”* from the proposed major addition to the gas station and restaurant known as the Mobil Mart.
This is a critical moment for public input; the letter deadline is August 21, 2019 at 5:00pm.
The Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) and Specific Plan for the Tioga Inn Project has studied a developer proposal to expand the approved site footprint onto a tall bluff that overlooks Highway 395 and Mono Lake. The proposed multi-unit, two-story construction of a 100-unit/150-bedroom Workforce Housing Village will, if approved as is, fundamentally change the experience of wild natural beauty of Mono Lake and the Mono Basin. Mono Lake, Mono County, and the scenic highway and gateway to Yosemite National Park deserve better.
As currently proposed, the project will be highly visible from many classic viewpoints including South Tufa, Panum Crater, and Highway 395 south of Lee Vining, and will have significant impacts on the prized dark night skies throughout the Mono Basin, deer migration, the Lee Vining community and more. The Workforce Housing Village would extend quite close to the boundary of the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, a special protection designation area within the Inyo National Forest. Unfortunately the proposal lacks meaningful design options that reduce or eliminate these impacts.
It is important to note that the scope of the Draft SEIR does not include the previously-approved hotel and restaurant on the site. However, this further underscores the importance of commenting on the cumulative impacts of the SEIR’s additions to the approved hotel and restaurant plans. The draft document can still be substantially improved to provide county leaders and decision makers with thoughtful, realistic alternatives to choose from.
The Mono Lake Committee is confident that the project could be done in a way that truly addresses visual, wildlife, and other issues. We are developing a thorough analysis of the project and are urging Mono County to ask for meaningful plan alternatives and to explore further viable options for eliminating the project’s significant unavoidable adverse impacts, which include permanent visual and aesthetic changes to the area.
Please help make sure that Mono County hears from people who visit and love the Mono Basin by writing a letter today.
Submit a letter by August 21, 2019
- Click here to quickly submit a customizable form letter. This is a quick and easy option, and a form letter is definitely better than no letter!
- Write your own letter and submit directly: Letters should be emailed to Michael Draper at firstname.lastname@example.org (please copy email@example.com) or can be mailed to: Michael Draper, Community Development Department, PO Box 347, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, or faxed to: (760) 924-1801.
Sample talking points to consider including in your letter
- The project’s visual impacts are significant, and the proponent has not considered sufficient mitigation to screen the Tioga Inn Workforce Housing Village.
- The Final SEIR needs to include project alternatives that reduce the visual and aesthetic impacts to a less than significant level.
- This project should not be visible from South Tufa or Highway 395 south of the Tioga Pass junction.
- I urge Mono County to make additional efforts to balance the needs of the project with the unique, wild, and beautiful nature of this special place. The current draft project does not include alternatives that mitigate the identified impacts so that a good project can go forward.
- Mono Lake, the gateway of Yosemite National Park, the community of Lee Vining, and scenic Mono County deserve a better project design than the one currently proposed.
- The previously-approved hotel and restaurant already received special Mono County approval to create permanent adverse visual impacts. Now the proponent seeks to expand the project and create significant new visual impacts that will affect highway travelers and Mono Lake visitors every day. All visual impacts should be evaluated, and mitigated, at once—not in pieces.
- There are cumulative adverse impacts to migrating deer with this project, and there is no planned immediate, enforceable mitigation that will reduce additional vehicle impacts with deer and other wildlife.
Sample letter text
If you love the Mono Basin night sky:
- One of the things that I come to the Mono Basin for is to see the stars in the dark night sky. In looking at the Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report and Specific Plan for the Tioga Inn Project I see that impacts on light and glare are identified as some of the 6 significant unavoidable adverse impacts. I find it hard to believe that there aren’t more things that can be done in order to preserve this special resource, and urge you to require the applicant to come up with a project that takes further mitigation into account and not change people’s opportunity to experience the precious night sky.
If you do photography in the area:
- South Tufa will be marred by this project. The iconic Mono Lake image of Mono Lake, tufa towers, and the Sierra Nevada, untrammeled by human activity, will have over a dozen two-story buildings built into the hillside, peppered with reflective windows and surfaces. This will detract from the enjoyment of photographing throughout the day at Mono Lake. Sunrise photography at South Tufa will suffer from the many distracting artificial reflections as the morning sun brings extra attention to this development, miles in the distance.
- Night photography will also suffer as a new and much-increased source of light floods the night sky from a distant ridge. Despite Mono County’s night sky lighting ordinance, the addition of so many downward pointing lights high on the bluff will create a glow visible for miles and forever detract from this world-class night photography destination.
If you travel on Highway 395 for the scenic views:
- The sudden, dramatic, scenic appearance of the Tioga Crest, welcoming travelers traveling north on Hwy 395 as they enter Lee Vining will be spoiled by multiple, two-story buildings breaking the skyline and interfering with this scenic, gateway view of the entrance to Yosemite National Park.
More letter-writing resources
- Tioga Inn Project documentation on the Mono County Planning Division website.
- Article: A 100-unit workforce housing village proposed adjacent to Lee Vining near Mono Lake and Yosemite National Park
- Article: Tioga Inn project at the Mobil Station moves forward after 23 years
- Mono Basin Community Plan
*For the official listing of the “6 significant unavoidable adverse impacts” go to the Mono County Planning Division website, download the second item in the Supporting Documents list, scroll to the bottom of page 9-1 (page 324 in the PDF) and look for the red check-marks in the right-hand column of the table.
Tags: Action Alert, development, Draft SEIR, Lee Vining, letter-writing, letters, Mobil, Mobil Mart, Night Skies, photography, public comment, Scenic Area, South Tufa, The Mobil, Tioga Inn, Workforce Village