Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

A 100-unit workforce housing village proposed adjacent to Lee Vining near Mono Lake and Yosemite National Park

August 22 update: Over 700 comment letters submitted about the proposed Tioga Inn project

Tioga Inn public comment period open until August 13 August 21, workshop July 30

The Tioga Inn is the name for the full build-out plan for the project that is currently best known as the Mobil-mart/Whoa Nellie Deli and gas station above the intersection of Highway 120 and Highway 395 just south of Lee Vining. This project has the potential to significantly change the community of Lee Vining, and could double its population. During this open public comment period every opinion and concern matters—people who live in, visit, or know Lee Vining are all encouraged to submit a comment letter.

The existing Mobil gas station, Whoa Nellie Deli, and workforce housing that are part of the proposed Tioga Inn development project.

Project overview

Over twenty six years ago Mono County approved the Tioga Inn Specific Plan & Final Environmental Impact Report, which includes a two-story, 120-room hotel, full-service restaurant, convenience store, gas station, and ten workforce housing units. While the Mobil Mart/Whoa Nellie Deli, gas station, and eight hilltop housing units have been completed for years, the two-story hotel and full-service hilltop restaurant have yet to be constructed. Recently, the project owner has proposed amending the approved Specific Plan to add additional development pieces.

Tioga Inn Specific Plan Proposed Amendment #3 includes the addition of a 100-unit/150-bedroom workforce housing village, additional fuel pumps for the existing gas station, a wastewater treatment plant, a 30,000-gallon propane tank, and additional accessory changes.

The project documentation lists the following potentially significant and unavoidable adverse impacts:

• Interfere with wildlife movement or migration
• Impacts on police, fire, schools, other services
• Impacts associated with intersection hazards
• Impact scenic resources, visual character
• Create new sources of light and glare

Public workshop in Lee Vining

There will be a public workshop on the project hosted by the Mono County Planning Department on Tuesday July 30, 6:30–8:00pm, at the Lee Vining Community Center at 296 Mattly Avenue in Lee Vining. This is a good opportunity to see documents, maps, and plans related to the project, and to get your questions about the project answered. For more information on the workshop, contact Michael Draper in the Mono County Development Department at (760) 924-1805 or by email.

Public comment

The public comment period for the Tioga Inn Specific Plan Amendment and Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) is open as of June 14 and closes on August 13 August 21, 2019.

The Mono Lake Committee has submitted comments on the project in the past, and is currently working on a comment letter. Comment letters from local residents as well as visitors are critical to this public process. If you are interested in submitting comments on the project, we recommend getting oriented by reading the project documentation on the Mono County Planning Division website. The Mono Basin Community Plan can also be a useful resource in formatting your comments.

Comments should be submitted in writing to:

Michael Draper, Community Development Department
PO Box 347, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
fax: (760) 924-1801

What happens next

From the Mono County documents: “All comments received by the closing of the public review period will be considered in the Final SEIR. A public hearing by the Planning Commission to consider the project and SEIR is anticipated no earlier than November 2019. If the project is recommended for adoption and certification by the Planning Commission, the project will then be scheduled for a public hearing by the Mono County Board of Supervisors.”

More details on the project process

A more detailed account of project process is detailed in the Tioga Inn Specific Plan Amendment #3 document:

In 1993, the Mono County Board of Supervisors approved a multiple-use visitor commercial project on a roughly 74-acre site located at the junction of US 395 and State Route 120 (the southwest quadrant). The property is located in central Mono County about one mile south of the community of Lee Vining. The 1993 project approvals included certification of a Final EIR, and approval of the Tioga Inn Specific Plan. Upon approval, the Tioga Inn Specific Plan established both the zoning and the General Plan uses and standards for the project site. The approved land use designations included “hotel,” “full-service restaurant,” “residential,” “convenience store/fuel sales,” “open space-preserve,” “open space-facilities,” and “open space-support.”

Many of the approved uses were developed and in operation by 1996, including the residential units, the convenience store/fuel sales, and the designated open space areas. In 1997, the deli opened inside the convenience store. The deli was not included in the 1993 Specific Plan, but was conditionally approved through a retroactive Director Review during 2012. The 2012 approval included a condition stating “No other commercial or retail space expansion will be permitted on the convenience store gas station parcel without a revision to the Tioga Specific Plan.” Specific Plan standards for the deli are included as part of the current proposed Amendment in accordance with this requirement.

The 1993 Specific Plan was amended in 1995 (Amendment #1), and again in 1997 (Amendment #2). Proposed Tioga Inn Specific Amendment #3 has a primary goal of facilitating the construction of up to 100 workforce housing units with up to 150 bedrooms to accommodate employees of the previously approved hotel and full-service restaurant. In order to accommodate changes in workforce demographics over time, the workforce housing is designed and would be plumbed to allow flexibility in ratio of 1-bedroom, 2-bedroom and 3+-bedroom units. Additional elements of proposed Amendment #3 include the addition of a third gas pump island, installation of a new wastewater treatment system with subsurface distribution for summer irrigation, expansion of the propane tank storage capability, realignment of the road providing access to the existing hillside residential units, changes in the parcel boundaries and acreages, and replacement of the existing water storage tank with a new tank of the same size in the same general location.”

If you have questions about the comment process or the Tioga Inn project, please feel free to contact me, Bartshe Miller, by email or at (760) 647-6595 x121.