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Two Developments Tip the Scales

Martis Valley West and Squaw Valley Village promise both major growth and environmental protection. Which aspect weighs more heavily on the community?
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(Editors Note, July 14, 2016: Placer County postponed the Tahoe Board of Supervisors meeting from July 26 to Sept. 13, when the Martis Valley West Specific Plan will be considered. Meeting to be held at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach. The Village at Squaw Valley project is scheduled for consideration by the Planning Commission Aug. 11 in a morning meeting in eastern Placer County, location TBD.)

Currently, two of the largest projects the region has seen in years — Martis Valley West and the Squaw Valley Village — are winding through the Placer County decision-making process. Many locals, jurisdictions, and conservation groups wonder whether or not Placer County is rushing the process, and worry that the two developments could create serious impacts on North Tahoe and Truckee, especially in terms of traffic and employee housing.

At the June 9 Placer County Planning Commission meeting on the Martis Valley West project, members of the public voiced these worries.

“My main concern is that these projects are evaluated in a vacuum,” said Peggy Nicholas of Carnelian Bay. “There are so many projects — Boulder Bay, Homewood, Squaw Valley. It would be tragic not to evaluate these on a regional basis.”

Together, Martis Valley West and the new Squaw Valley Village, if approved, would add 1,610 lodging units and more than 240,000 square feet of commercial space. Individually, Martis Valley West proposes 760 homes, 22,000 square feet of homeowner amenities such as a pool, spa, and fitness center, and 6.6 acres of commercial space. The Squaw Valley Village development would build 850 units with 1,493 bedrooms and more than 200,000 square feet of commercial space, along with a 90,000 square foot Mountain Adventure Camp. The county says it is required by law to consider cumulative impacts; advocates for each of the developments tout respective benefits. But detractors wonder, is it worth it?

RUSHED OR COINCIDENCE?

Although applications for Martis Valley West and the Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan were submitted to Placer County two years apart — Squaw Valley in December 2011 and Martis Valley West in August 2013 — their draft environmental impact reports were issued within five months of one another; Squaw Valley’s in May 2015 and Martis Valley West’s in October. The final EIRs for both projects were released even closer together — Squaw Valley’s in April of this year and Martis Valley West’s in May. In less than a month’s time this spring, both projects had major hearings. The Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Council voted to deny the Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan on May 14. The Planning Commission continued a June 9 meeting about Martis Valley West to July 7, when it voted 5-2 to recommend against the project, citing concerns about traffic and evacuation plans. The final decision rests with the Placer County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 9.

Environmental groups are concerned that these projects are coming through the Placer County planning pipeline too fast.

“I have never seen a county hurrying the process of such big development plans at the same time,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch. “It’s like two Titanics racing for the iceberg.”

Mooers believes that Placer County could demonstrate stronger leadership by taking a regional, instead of piecemeal, approach to planning.

“Right now Placer County is abrogating its authority. They are planning by train wreck,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for the supervisors to stand up and say, ‘This is too much, too fast, with a lot of opposition.’ But we are not seeing that now.”

Mountain Area Preservation agrees. “Placer County is processing what’s in front of them right now,” said MAP Executive Director Alexis Ollar. “They are taking the vacuum approach.”
However, Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who represents North Tahoe, said the county is not rushing the Squaw Valley Village or Martis Valley West projects through the planning process. “It is truly how the process works. As the documents come in, we process them,” she explained. “I want to reassure people that Placer County is not manipulating the process in terms of timing.”

Even Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook, who is deeply concerned about the impacts both of these developments could have on the town, thinks that it’s a coincidence that the two projects are at roughly the same stage in the planning process. “It’s happenstance that they are coming through at the same time,” he said.

TRAFFIC

Both the Squaw Valley Village and Martis Valley West draft EIRs analyze cumulative impacts as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Squaw Valley Village analysis considered 18 future projects, including Martis Valley West, when considering cumulative impacts on 13 issues, such as transportation and land use. Martis Valley West analyzed the cumulative impacts on 14 issues and took into account 31 future projects, including the Squaw Valley Village. Another of these future projects is Mountainside Partners’ Brockway Campground, which proposes 550 campsites as well as amenities like a swimming pool, general store, adventure center, rental center, dining facility, and lodge off Highway 267 near Brockway Summit. The project, which was submitted last summer, originally called for 112 residential units as part of Martis Valley West, but was scrapped after concerns from environmental groups.

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Reader comments so far...

Peter Schweitzer | Olympic Valley
A search today in the multiple listing shows 86 condos for sale in the Valley. The current hotels in the valley are rarely sold out. If people want to stay in the valley they can do that now. There is no shortage of condos for sale. To think that people will sell their homes in Tahoe Donner to buy a two bedroom condo on the 8th floor of a high rise makes no sense. The EIR show so many flaws to the proposal that it makes it hard to even consider this plan as serious. Traffic effects, and other negative impacts are understated, please remember that the EIR is KSL;s document, so even with their bias, the document is damning. People will support a good project with reasonable growth. This project is neither and must be denied.

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October 12, 2017