Court battle looms for Martis Valley West project | SierraSun.com

Court battle looms for Martis Valley West project

Kelsie Longerbeam
klongerbeam@sierrasun.com

A court battle looms for the controversial Martis Valley West housing development in the Truckee-Tahoe area.

On Dec. 14, the Mountain Area Preservation, Sierra Watch, and League to Save Lake Tahoe will all challenge the approval of the Martis Valley West housing development by the Placer County Board of Supervisors.

"With the current state of wildfires in Northern California, appropriate land use planning and environmental mitigation is more important than ever for our fragile natural resources, limited roadway infrastructure and current population in Tahoe," the Mountain Area Preservation said in a statement.

Judge Michael W. Jones will preside over the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit filed against Placer County, Mountainside Partners (formerly know as East West Partners) and Sierra Pacific Industries.

The lawsuit alleges the county violated the Timberland Productivity Act by immediately rezoning the land from timberland production to residential. According to a court brief, the act requires a landowner to wait 10 years after the county changes the zoning for the new designation to take effect. It also alleges the environmental impact report, mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act to assess the potential environmental harm of a proposed development and propose mitigation measures, was inadequate.

The Placer County Board of Supervisors originally voted 4-1 to approve the Martis Valley West plan after an 8-hour hearing on Sept. 13, 2016 and reaffirmed that decision in an Oct. 11, 2016 meeting. Only District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who represents the Lake Tahoe-area of Placer County, was opposed.

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Martis Valley West is a housing development that proposes 760 residential units and 6.6 acres of commercial development on 662 acres along the ridge line of Brockway Summit, adjacent to Northstar and the Tahoe Basin Boundary line.

Initially, landowner Sierra Pacific Industries and developer Mountainside Partners sought to develop the land on the other side of Highway 267. However, environmental groups wanted that land protected so they, the landowner, and developer struck a deal called the Martis Valley Opportunity Agreement.

The agreement was intended to make the east parcel available for conservation, reduce the number of homes from over 1360 to 760, and instead build them to the west of the highway. The complicated land-swap didn't go as planned, and left many confused about the agreement, and what was included in the development.

Supporters of the project say the reduction in the number of units paired with the relocation of the development should be enough, while those opposed argue the project's close proximity to Lake Tahoe should warrant additional cutbacks in size.

Kelsie Longerbeam is the news, business and environment reporter for the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. She can be contacted at klongerbeam@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter and Instagram @kelsielongerbm.

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