Shoreline of Mono Lake looking west towards the Sierra Nevada with tufa towers reflecting on the glassy lake and the sky is pink, purple, and blue.

Problematic Tioga Inn project denied at April 20, 2021 Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting

After three hours of public comment and deliberation, a motion to approve the Tioga Inn project failed in a 2–2 vote at the Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting this afternoon, which means the project is denied.

The project had not changed from the last hearing in December 2020, which members of the public and the Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe pointed out in another round of thoughtful public comment. In addition to the 19 people who spoke during public comment at the meeting, the Board received 66 comment letters, all but one of which were in opposition to the project, as they have been for most of this project’s nearly five-year existence.

Today’s public hearing was the first time newly-elected Supervisor Rhonda Duggan considered the project; she asked a number of clarifying questions that demonstrated that she had fully engaged with the voluminous project materials and public concerns.

After public comment and Board discussion Supervisor Bob Gardner made a motion to continue the project hearing at a later date to provide the opportunity for the Tribe to meet and address concerns with the developer and the County, which Supervisor Duggan seconded. The motion received a 2–2 vote, failing to pass.

Supervisor John Peters then made a motion to approve the project, which was seconded by Supervisor Jennifer Kreitz. That motion failed 2–2 as well, which automatically resulted in a denial of the project. As County Counsel Stacey Simon summarized: “There has been a final determination on the project—it has been denied based on a motion that did not pass.”

The Board briefly entertained a motion to reconsider the approval motion that had just failed, which would have had to be made by either Supervisor who was part of the “side that prevailed.” When neither Supervisor Duggan nor Gardner expressed interest in making a motion to reconsider, Supervisor Kreitz abruptly adjourned the meeting.

It is clear that public and Tribal engagement in the form of comment letters and verbal comments have affected this outcome. Many, many people have closely tracked and provided thoughtful input on a wide range of topics pertaining to this project through years, adjustments, and the zigzags of the public process since the scoping phase five years ago.

In the end, when asked to vote on the project as it was proposed at the hearing today, two of the four voting Mono County Supervisors did not agree that the project benefits outweighed the significant adverse impacts (one Supervisor recused herself due to a conflict of interest). We had thought further project modifications and environmental review could have addressed impacts to make this project both safe for the community and acceptable to the Kutzadika’a Tribe, but in the end time ran out for further analysis. To all who supported the Tribe, Lee Vining, and Mono Lake, and dedicated your time to speaking up with your concerns about impacts and suggestions for improvements, thank you!

Top photo courtesy of Jeff Sullivan.