Homewood eyes 2017 for ski resort redevelopment after latest court ruling | SierraSun.com
Margaret Moran
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Homewood eyes 2017 for ski resort redevelopment after latest court ruling

An architectural rendering of the proposed Homewood base lodge hotel.

HOMEWOOD, Calif. — After being delayed for years due to litigation, construction of the much-fought over Homewood Mountain Resort redevelopment will most likely get under way in 2017 on Lake Tahoe's West Shore.

Last week, the California's Third District Appellate Court ruled in favor of JMA Ventures, owner of Homewood, and Placer County on a majority of challenges presented in a lawsuit filed by the California Clean Energy Committee.

Of the six challenges raised by the Davis, Calif.-headquartered nonprofit, the court rejected all but one regarding the Environmental Impact Report's failure to identify or evaluate wildfire evacuation risk on the West Shore as it relates to the multimillion-dollar development.

"We conclude the EIR fails to describe and analyze the wildfire evacuation risk, and reverse for that reason," states the ruling. "We reject Clean Energy's other contentions."

Other issues raised by CCEC, which is led by attorney Eugene Wilson, included various energy impacts such as increased snowmaking, long-distance travel/tourism impacts and suggested climate mitigations.

"It puts to rest the vast majority of the appeal issues," Art Chapman, founder and chairman of JMA, said this week regarding the court's decision. "Once this one issue is resolved … we are then cleared to move forward with the project."

Requests for comment were not immediately returned by Wilson.

Intend to comply

The Dec. 22 ruling states that no project activity can be carried out that could adversely impact the physical environment until Placer County takes action to identify, discuss and analyze wildfire evacuation risk consistent with California Environmental Quality Act.

Chapman said JMA intends to comply with the ruling and has already talked to Placer County on addressing the wildfire evacuation issue.

To do so, it would involve creating an addendum to the EIR regarding evacuation plans and a subsequent public review/comment period and approval by the county's Board of Supervisors, Chapman said.

Costs to update the 2011-approved EIR is unclear, given that the county needs to hire a consultant to prepare the addendum, he said. As project applicant, JMA would pay that expense.

This would be on top of the approximately $500,000 paid by JMA for the production of the Homewood EIR, said David Tirman, executive vice president of JMA.

To analyze wildfire evacuation risk, many variables would be involved, Chapman said, including wind direction, size of fire, time of season and number of people in the area.

While JMA had most recently hoped to break ground on the Homewood project in 2016, the court's ruling could delay that to 2017, Chapman said.

In addition, JMA would need to secure building permits from Placer County to break ground. Project buildout is estimated to take up to seven years, subject to market conditions, Tirman said.

Project Background

The Homewood redevelopment plan includes the construction of a 5-star hotel with up 75 rooms; a variety of base area residences including condominiums, townhomes and chalets; workforce housing; 15,000 square feet of retail space; underground and structure parking; and re-vegetation and landscaping of former asphalt parking areas.

This is a slightly scaled-down version of the original $500 million plan due to a settlement JMA reached with the Friends of the West Shore and Tahoe Area Sierra Club in 2014, in response to a federal lawsuit they filed on Jan. 5, 2012.

Meanwhile, CCEC filed its lawsuit in Placer County Superior Court on Dec. 8, 2011, according to a previous report.

In late 2012, Placer County Superior Court ruled in favor of Placer County and JMA on all the issues raised by the CCEC.

An appeal was filed in December that year, leading to last week's ruling.

Chapman said the Homewood project originally should have broken ground three years ago.

"We just hope that we get to the finish line," he said this week. "I think it's going to be a marvelous addition to the area."

The idea of renovating Homewood's two base areas (north and south) was first proposed in 2006, before JMA officially submitted an application in 2007.

Homewood, located south of Tahoe City, has operated as a ski resort since 1962. Visit skihomewood.com for information.