Squaw Valley village development: Final environmental report ready
April 18, 2016
How to comment
Mail: Placer County Community Development Resource Agency, Environmental Coordination Services; 3091 County Center Drive, Suite 190; Auburn, CA 95603
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OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — The final environmental document for the controversial development proposal at Squaw Valley contains some revisions, but none large enough to trigger recirculation of the draft report.
According to the final EIR released April 7, the proposed village expansion plan would result in fewer "significant and unavoidable impacts" than the 23 reported in the draft document.
Three such impacts related to transportation and circulation, noise, and cumulative impacts have been downgraded to "less than significant" due to a change in conditions or an added mitigation measure.
In addition, project applicant Squaw Valley Real Estate has made building design modifications to its specific plan since the May 2015 release of the draft EIR, including reducing maximum building heights and increasing building separation in the Village Core and Village Neighborhood, and increasing building setbacks in the East Parcel.
"The changes that have been made by the applicant would not generate a new substantial adverse environmental effect, and in some cases, the changes reduce potential environmental effects of the project," the final EIR states. " … Because the information in this (revision) section makes insignificant modifications to an otherwise adequate EIR, recirculation of the DEIR for additional comment is not required."
Of the more than 350 submitted draft EIR comments, many where critical of the report's analysis on specific environmental resources and/or the proposed plan itself. Common concerns included visual, traffic and safety, noise and water supply impacts, along with the general scale of the proposed plan.
Meanwhile, a few voiced their support of the plan, citing that upgrades to the ski resort would attract more business and create more jobs in the region.
"In preparing the FEIR, the county and its environmental consultant (Ascent Environmental) reviewed all of the comments to determine if any new substantive issues were raised that were not previously addressed in the EIR, or if any of the comments would result in changes to the analyses," said Alex Fisch, Placer County supervising planner. " … The Final EIR, which does include minor revisions to clarify the project description contained in the draft EIR and provides additional details on some impact analyses and conclusions, where warranted, but no substantive changes were made."
In addition, all comments received on the draft EIR are responded to in the final EIR, according to the county.
Comments on the final EIR will be added to the record and considered by the Placer County Planning Commission and the county's Board of Supervisors when they hear the project.
In a meeting tentatively planned for late May, the Planning Commission will review the environmental document and plan and provide the Board of Supervisors a set of recommendations, Fisch said.
Supervisors will then take action to approve, deny or direct the project be modified at a public hearing that is anticipated for July, he said.
WHAT LIES AHEAD?
As of recently, no specific hearing dates have been set, Fisch said. Given the regional significance of the project, the county has determined those hearings will not be scheduled until at least 30 days after circulation of the Final EIR.
"The Final EIR … serves as a disclosure document so that decision makers can determine whether this project is preferable, or if an alternative to this project is preferable," Fisch said. "The FEIR does not take a position on the project."
As it stands now, the Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan outlines construction of up to 850 lodging units, with a maximum of 1,493 bedrooms; nearly 300,000 square feet of tourist-serving commercial space, while decommissioning about 92,000 square feet of existing commercial space; and the Mountain Adventure Camp for indoor and outdoor recreation, among other improvements.
Additional parking spaces, construction of up to 50 employee housing units and restoration of Squaw Creek also are proposed.
Based on those specs, project buildout is estimated to take 25 years in various phases, which factors in basin construction regulations and market cycles.
With this project, Squaw hopes to develop a year-round destination resort that is on par with other world-class North American ski destinations.