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June Mountain fate still unclear, group forms to save it

July 20, 2012

June Lake community members met with both Mammoth Mountain Ski Area CEO/June Mountain Ski Area owner Rusty Gregory and Inyo National Forest Supervisor Ed Armenta individually in the past week, but there is still no concrete answer as to June Mountain’s fate.

The spectre of a shuttered June Mountain ski area has spurred the June Lake community, but Connie Black, owner of the Double Eagle Resort and Spa—and now a member of the newly formed “Keep June Mountain Open Coalition”—said it’s still too soon to conclude what will happen.

“We are still in the fact-finding part of this process,” she said. She added that both meetings with Armenta and Gregory were “very productive,” but she declined to give much more detail.

She did say that she has never seen June Lake as galvanized about anything as it is about this issue.
“We are really focused,” she said. “People are really coming together.”

But big questions still stand.

For one, the county supervisors stand on the year-round air service subsidy remains up in the air in terms of whether a majority vote to contribute to the subsidy could be mustered. Continuing at the level of year-round air service currently in place was something of a deal breaker for Gregory last week, when he challenged the county supervisors to get off their collective fannies and their wallets and increase last year’s subsidy from $85,000 to $100,000.

Although June Lake supervisor Vikki Bauer is firmly behind the service—as long as June Mountain is kept open—the other supervisors are not uniformly committed.

In contrast, Black said she and members of the coalition believe that air service is critical. She said she and other coalition members would be taking the issue to the supervisors in the next week or two.

Second, there are still many questions surrounding the 98-acre “Rodeo Grounds” site located just across from June Mountain, another possible deal breaker for MMSA. Last week, Gregory challenged the June Lake community and the county to come together to “entitle” the land for development, thus making it more enticing to a possible developer. He was adamant that about 1,000 more beds are needed in June Lake to support a successful ski area.

Black said the community does not oppose such an option, contrary to what Gregory said last week. She noted that in 2006, a June Lake group agreed to a Rodeo Grounds site that would contain about 900 units—not far from Gregory’s 1,000 units.

She said she and coalition members will ask the county to begin working on changing zoning codes that would make the site more enticing.

Scott Burns, Mono County Senior Planner, said the county could also conduct some of the inevitable environmental studies that any developer would have to do under state law, increasing the “attraction” factor for the land.

“The California Environmental Quality Act is the big hurdle for these companies, one that they all must deal with,” he said. “Doing some of the studies needed in advance might be appealing to them.”

He cautioned that going too far with entitling the Rodeo Grounds site with specific requirements—i.e. density, design, etc.—could backfire. He said if the entitling process is too specific, a potential developer would not have the flexibility it might wish to develop the site as it deems profitable and sustainable.

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