Martis Valley West legal battle heats up in Placer County | SierraSun.com

Martis Valley West legal battle heats up in Placer County

The proposal to develop 760 houses just beyond the Lake Tahoe Basin boundary on Highway 267 may not be a done deal if several environmental groups have their way.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe, Sierra Watch, and Mountain Area Preservation moved forward on June 30 with a lawsuit that they hope will overturn the controversial decision to approve the Martis Valley West project.

"Ultimately our goal is not to win a lawsuit, it's to protect timeless values of the Sierra," said Sierra Watch staff attorney Isaac Silverman in a statement.

According to a statement from Sierra Watch, the group filed an opening brief in Placer County Superior Court on Friday afternoon, June 30. As of 3 p.m. that day, the county had not received the brief, but a spokesperson said that their response was unchanged.

"The county stands by the board's actions in approving this project and will vigorously defend it in court," said Placer County Director of Communications DeDe Cordell.

She also said the county would be filing its brief within 45 days based on the court's timeline.

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

The planning commission recommended that the board deny the project.

As the Sierra Sun has previously reported, the Martis Valley West project would put 760 houses between Northstar Resort and the Lake Tahoe Basin boundary on Highway 267 near Brockway Summit.

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.

The lawsuit 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 lawsuit also alleges the county violated the Timberland Productivity Act by immediately rezoning the land from timberland production to residential. According to the brief, the act requires the landowner wait 10 years after the county changes the zoning for the new designation to take effect.

According to the brief filed by Sierra Watch, a hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7.

Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at arhoades@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @akrhoades.

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