The Mono County Board of Supervisors will hold their fourth public hearing on the Tioga Inn project on Tuesday, April 20 at 1:00pm. The project remains unchanged from the version that was considered at the last hearing in December 2020. At that time thoughtful comments from members of the Kutzadika’a Tribe, the community, the Lee Vining Volunteer Fire Department, and the Mono Lake Committee highlighted significant, continuing, and unresolved concerns regarding the project’s impacts on the community.
Many commenters asked the County to delay a hearing until Mono County and the project proponent had formally met at the project site with the Tribe to discuss cultural resource concerns and a path forward. Commenters also noted new information from Caltrans that the possibility of safe pedestrian and bicycle route, connecting the town of Lee Vining with the proposed workforce housing complex, hotel, and restaurant was feasible—despite the assertion to the contrary in project documents.
A suggested path forward
In early March, the Mono Lake Committee and the Kutzadika’a Tribe submitted a joint letter asking Mono County to perform additional environmental review in light of the missing information, analysis, and mitigation in the current project documents. Specifically, the review would cover cultural resource impacts raised by the Tribe, and the pedestrian connectivity trail because “the County has received information demonstrating that certain mitigation measures once found infeasible are now feasible.” The County did not respond to the joint letter.
Mono County staff have urged the Kutzadika’a Tribe to meet with the developer to resolve their concerns, but the County has neither helped to facilitate a meeting nor followed up on progress. The Tribe notified the County of a meeting plan with the project proponent for early May, but for Mono County, that was too late. On April 2, the County informed the Tribe that time had run out, and a public hearing would move forward on April 20.
To date the process has remained confusing and frustrating, and nothing appears to have changed from the project’s last appearance before the Board four months ago. However, the Tioga Inn has not yet been approved, and the same set of significant concerns from the Tribe, the community of local residents and business owners, the Lee Vining Volunteer Fire Department, the general public, and the Mono Lake Committee remain.
The opportunity to improve the project and resolve impacts that affect the Tribe and community are still possible. Your comments have caused a poorly planned project to receive extensive scrutiny and halted, so far, final approval. Your comments will matter once again. While the upcoming April 20 hearing appears to be a rerun of December’s, the makeup of the Board is slightly different: a new supervisor has replaced District 2 Supervisor Fred Stump, who retired at the end of 2020. Supervisor Rhonda Duggan, a former Mammoth Lakes Planning Commissioner, will be considering the Tioga Inn project for the first time next week.
Please submit written comments by Sunday night, April 18 and let Mono County know:
• The Kutzadika’a Tribe needs to be respected and adequately consulted regarding impacts to their cultural heritage.
• Safe connectivity in the form of a pedestrian and bicycle path between the project site and Lee Vining is feasible and Mono County as the lead agency must prepare a subsequent EIR because the path would reduce significant impacts and was previously excluded from analysis.
• If approved as is, the Tioga Inn project proponent will reap significant private benefits, while significant adverse impacts will be left to the Mono Basin community, Eastern Sierra Unified School District, the Lee Vining Volunteer Fire Department, Mono County, and Caltrans to figure out and pay for.
• The developer can do better and Mono County can do better. The public, the Kutzadika’a Tribe, and the Lee Vining community deserve better.
To submit written comments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, Attn: Michael Draper. We encourage you to submit your comments by Sunday night, April 18 in order to be transmitted to the Board prior to the April 20 hearing. You can also attend and provide public comment at the hearing on Tuesday.
Top photo by Bartshe Miller: A reflection off a small piece of glass at the Tioga Inn project site is visible at South Tufa.