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Tioga Inn hearing outcome: FSEIR certified, project approval deferred  

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020 by Arya, Communications Director

In a late-in-the-day development, the Mono County Board of Supervisors certified the Tioga Inn Final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (FSEIR) with changes discussed at today’s meeting but deferred approval of the Tioga Inn project itself.

Supervisors Jennifer Kreitz, John Peters, Fred Stump voted to certify the FSEIR. Supervisor Bob Gardner voted against the certification after highlighting the community impacts that remain unresolved. The Tioga Inn project is located in Supervisor Gardner’s district. Supervisor Stacy Corless was recused.

The Board held off on final project approval until the developer consults further with the Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe and Caltrans on the project.

After another day and a half of hearings, we wanted to pass along this news to the dedicated Mono Lake Committee members and friends who have followed this issue, written countless comment letters, and commented before the Board on multiple occasions over multiple years. While many important issues were left unaddressed, some visual impact reductions have been incorporated, and today’s hearing made it very clear that your input has made a positive difference.

Unfortunately, by approving the FSEIR despite extensive community, public, and agency input and concern, the Supervisors essentially chose not to include provisions fixing the “significant, unavoidable impacts” of the project, including fire safety concerns and requests of the Lee Vining Fire Department.

We will post a thorough analysis soon on the hearing developments and clarification of what the decision means for issues of visual impacts, fire safety, pedestrian safety, community connectivity, and project phasing.

For context on this project, please read more, here.

Tioga Inn public hearing Tuesday, October 13

Friday, October 9th, 2020 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

On Tuesday, October 13 at 2:00pm the Mono County Board of Supervisors will once again consider the Tioga Inn Specific Plan Amendment.

The Tioga Inn, if approved as currently proposed, would be visible from South Tufa in this world-class view looking toward the Sierra Nevada. Photo courtesy of Jeff Sullivan.

In addition to considering key issues surrounding safety impacts the project would produce, the Supervisors will review the new “Alternative 7–Hybrid Plan” with revisions that have occurred since the previous hearing on August 6. These revisions include more details on the Phase 1 site plan and a new Landscape Concept Plan, which includes a mix of native and non-native trees that offer some screening of project buildings.

The Mono Lake Committee encourages the interested public, and everyone who has closely followed and commented on the Tioga Inn project to tune in on Tuesday and comment again. (more…)

Tioga Inn project coming back around: Here’s a refresher

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

Editor’s note: The Tioga Inn project will be back before the Mono County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, October 13, 2:00–5:00pm, with the (likely) potential to continue the topic on Wednesday, October 14 at 9:00am if needed. While the item has not yet been agendized, two documents have been posted: the Alternative 7 Description + Concept Site Plan + Landscape Concept Plan and the Conceptual Grading Plan. For a refresher on this controversial development project we have posted here the article Bartshe wrote for the Fall 2020 Mono Lake Newsletter, which is being printed right now. Stay tuned for more on this project before next week’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The largest project of its kind ever proposed in unincorporated Mono County, the Tioga Inn development project continues to transmute and persist despite nearly unanimous public objection to its significant adverse environmental impacts.

Without proper mitigations the Tioga Inn project would be highly visible from South Tufa, as demonstrated here with 2′ x 3′ piece of glass reflecting the rising sun from the project site. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

On three days of hearings this past summer (June 29, 30 and August 6), the Mono County Board of Supervisors navigated overwhelming public opposition to the project, considered project changes, posed questions to the developer, and ultimately delayed a final decision to (more…)

Tioga Inn indecision

Friday, August 14th, 2020 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

The largest project of its kind ever proposed in unincorporated Mono County, the Tioga Inn project final decision continues on, yet again, to an uncertain date. The Mono County Board of Supervisors adjourned the latest hearing last week without making a decision on the project.

Last fall, the developer, Mono County staff, Mono County Planning Commission, and members of the public visited the Mobil Mart to walk the site of the proposed Tioga Inn project. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The developer advocated for the most recent “Alternative #7 – Hybrid Plan,” along with other last-minute project changes, and the public expressed overwhelming opposition and insightful and relevant comments regarding project impacts, hydrology questions, and CEQA concerns. Including the Planning Commission meeting last April, the August 6 hearing was the third time that the local community and the public had expressed consistent and near-universal opposition to the project.

There was no (more…)

Tioga Inn project decision kicked down the road

Thursday, August 6th, 2020 by Arya, Communications Director

Following eight hours of presentation, public comment, and deliberation on the Tioga Inn project, today the Mono County Board of Supervisors decided to continue gathering information on the project details and outstanding questions, and postponed a decision until a later, unspecified, date.

Belt of Venus, Mono Lake by Jeff Sullivan

The view from South Tufa towards Tioga Pass, and the site of the proposed Tioga Inn project. Photo courtesy of Jeff Sullivan.

This action comes as yet another twist in what has been an extremely lengthy process. We will report with further information and analysis of this new situation, here, shortly.

Click here for more background information on the Tioga Inn project.

Tioga Inn project: Changes get disappointing grades before final hearing on August 6

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

This Thursday, August 6, at 10:00am the Mono County Board of Supervisors will conduct a final hearing on the Tioga Inn project. After a lengthy hearing in June the Board gave the developer and staff direction to bring back significant design improvements to address visual impacts, fire concerns, and to add a safe pedestrian route between Lee Vining and the project site.

Community members speaking during the Tioga Inn hearing before the Board of Supervisors in June. Photo by Rose Nelson.

The revised project before the Board shows some progress on addressing visual impacts but falls woefully short on safety and fire protection. For example, the final proposal does not include a safe pedestrian route, isolating future residents from Lee Vining and providing no way for students to walk to school. The original five significant adverse impacts remain with the project, and Board must vote to accept these impacts without mitigation if they vote to approve the project this Thursday.

The developer’s new “Alternative #7-Hybrid Plan” is identified as the “Preferred Alternative.” How is it different from what the Board considered in late June? (more…)

Another public hearing on the Tioga Inn project: August 6, 2020

Friday, July 31st, 2020 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

The Mono County planning staff have released the agenda and Board Packet for the Board of Supervisors special meeting on the Tioga Inn project on Thursday, August 6 at 10:00am.

Belt of Venus, Mono Lake by Jeff Sullivan

The view from South Tufa towards Tioga Pass, and the site of the Tioga Inn project. Photo courtesy of Jeff Sullivan.

The Board has the final authority to approve, modify, or deny the Tioga Inn project, which, at this time includes a new “hybrid” alternative that takes into consideration the board’s request for additional information on several aspects of the project that were the result of the last hearing in June.

This is yet another public hearing on this project. Despite board direction to modify the project, the project proponent is making a final attempt to (more…)

Mono County Supervisors tackle the big picture on Tioga Inn, direct major fixes

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

After two lengthy days of public meeting and deliberation, the Mono County Board of Supervisors sent the Tioga Inn project back to the developer and staff for major improvements to the design and content.

In September last year, the Mono County Planning Commissioners and members of the public visited the Tioga Inn project site. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The Board affirmed its commitment to protect the long-term best interests of Mono County and its residents and visitors. Supervisors recognized the project will set a precedent for large development throughout the county and frequently noted the need to get the Tioga Inn project right, especially in light of its prominent location and size relative to the existing community.

Supervisors are expecting significant project design improvements that will reduce visual impacts, resolve fire concerns, and add a safe pedestrian route between Lee Vining and the project site. The Mono Lake Committee continues to work closely with the Lee Vining community and looks forward to engaging with Mono County staff to craft significant changes that will produce a project that respects the local community and the scenic Mono Basin.

The Board tentatively scheduled a July 20 special meeting an August 6 meeting when they can consider the improved project.

Eleventh-hour project changes

On Monday, thoughtful input from (more…)

Tioga Inn project hearing continues into day two

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020 by Arya, Communications Director

After nine hours of presentations and public comment yesterday, the Mono County Board of Supervisors decided to hold deliberations and their vote to approve, modify, or deny the Tioga Inn project on the planned second day of this special meeting.

Highlights and surprising moments from the meeting thus far include 51 in-person and by-Zoom two-minute-limited public comments, with 3 in support and 48 againstthe introduction of wholly new potential elements to the project from the developer, and wide-ranging questions from the Board.

In an effort to assess the effects of reflective surfaces at the proposed Tioga Inn project site, Mono Lake Committee staff brought a 2×3-foot mirror to the site and photographed the reflection from South Tufa. This photograph was presented to the Board. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Mono Lake Committee staff comments focused on the unmitigated significant negative impacts in the Final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report—scenic impacts to South Tufa, the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, and throughout the viewshed, impacts to the dark night sky, and issues in direct conflict with the Mono Basin Community Plan, including pedestrian safety, impacts to schools, feasibility of a trail to town, fire safety, and more.

By far, the most impressive part of the day was the wide array of thoughtful and heartfelt comments from the public.

You can follow the proceedings starting today, Tuesday, June 30th at 9:00am online by Zoom, telephone, or live stream (click here for instructions for each).

See you there.

Looking west towards Tioga Pass from South Tufa. Photo courtesy of Jeff Sullivan.

Tioga Inn project: Minimal modeling shows significant impacts to the Mono Basin’s scenic resources

Saturday, June 27th, 2020 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician

The Draft Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (DSEIR) for the Tioga Inn project identified five significant and unavoidable adverse impacts. Despite a large and comprehensive public response voicing concerns over these impacts, the Final Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (FSEIR) declared:

“The significant and unavoidable adverse impacts that were identified in the DSEIR will remain significant and unavoidable if the proposed Tioga [Inn] project is approved, even with modifications proposed in this FSEIR.”

Of these five impacts, impacts to scenic views were the hardest for me personally to fully comprehend since no 3-D models were provided to demonstrate what the project would look like after grading and construction were completed. Notably, the FSEIR acknowledged that project impacts to aesthetic resources were the most common and frequent concern from comment letters. To better understand what the final project as proposed in the FSEIR would look like I conducted a 3-D visualization and viewshed analysis using ArcGIS. (more…)

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