Tahoe residents flood TRPA with criticism of ridgeline campground idea | SierraSun.com

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Tahoe residents flood TRPA with criticism of ridgeline campground idea

CORRECTION:

This story has been updated from a previous version to indicate that the Martis Valley West project was borne out of a previous agreement among conservation groups Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation, along with then-East West Partners and landowner Sierra Pacific Industries.

A previous version incorrectly indicated both the MVW project and the Brockway Campground proposal were borne out of that same idea.

The Sierra Sun regrets the error.

You can also click here to read a Sept. 1 guest column from Sierra Watch, Mountain Area Preservation and the League to Save Lake Tahoe that details the groups’ concerns about the campground proposal.

KINGS BEACH, Calif. — Members of the public levied heavy criticisms this week of a multi-acre campground proposal on a piece of Lake Tahoe Basin property that was previously slated for residential development.

Concerns including traffic and public safety were expressed during Wednesday's Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board meeting at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach, where the Brockway Campground proposal served as an informational item. The board took no action.

"Those who live on the North Shore know we're already near capacity with summer traffic that routinely gridlocks for a mile or more along Highway 28 and 89," said longtime North Shore resident Robert Heintz. "… (This development) would be accessed from Highway 267. On a daily basis there would be hundreds of additional cars on our roads, some towing boats and other toys … logging trucks and construction vehicles up and down Highway 267, congesting traffic for miles is either direction.

"Can anyone reasonably argue or defend the likelihood that something other than a gridlock deathtrap (would occur) within the Tahoe Basin along Highway 267 during an emergency evacuation?"

The Brockway Campground proposes 550 campsites and amenities such as a swimming pool, general store and picnic pavilions on a 104-acre parcel near Brockway Summit, above Kings Beach near a ridgeline that overlooks Lake Tahoe.

During a presentation to the board and public, project consultant Bud Surles explained that 83 percent of the 104-acre parcel would remain undeveloped, with the remaining 17 percent consisting of roads, parking, structures and campsites.

'RIDICULOUS' IDEA?

Blake Riva, senior partner with the project developer, Mountainside Partners (formerly East West Partners), added that the project is proposing fewer campsites per acre than what regulations allow — about five rather than eight — for a total of 550, rather than 832 units.

"Even if we just have two people at each unit, (that's) 1,100 people," said Jennifer Quashnick, representing the Friends of the West Shore, who was one of nearly 30 people who addressed the TRPA board. "At least 550 cars, and a lot of people are going to come down to visit the lake. … To assume they are not going to leave this campground is ridiculous, frankly."

Prior to the meeting, Riva said a shuttle service would be provided to and from nearby recreational and shopping locations to reduce vehicle trips once campground guests are on site.

However, many who spoke Wednesday predict additional traffic would be inevitable on already congested roadways as a result of the proposed seasonal campground, if approved.

"If there was a catastrophic event, how would visitors and residents flee from that event?" asked Kings Beach resident Marynell Hartnett. "As you know, our roads are two lanes. There's only three exits to the basin."

Beyond the potential public safety threat, additional basin traffic could have adverse environmental effects on Lake Tahoe, several others pointed out.

"There will be a substantial increase in traffic from cars, RVs, boats and water toys; not just cars, but idling cars stuck in increased traffic," said Tahoe City resident Ellen Swensen. "You have taught us all that vehicles add pollution particulates into the lake, potentially harming water quality. … Tahoe is at a constant sensitive tipping point in terms of water quality and lake clarity, so I respectively request that you turn down this development."

Both the TRPA and Placer County received the Brockway Campground proposal in late July, and each agency will conduct a full environmental review.

"Brockway Campground will be subject to the typical, very through public review process, so Placer County will actually be preparing an environmental impact report, an EIR, and for TRPA, an Environmental Impact Statement, EIS," Riva said outside of the meeting. "… As part of those environmental studies, we'll be analyzing visual, traffic and water, and all those other important topics whenever something is proposed in Tahoe. Those will be thoroughly analyzed."

MARTIS VALLEY WEST

Meanwhile, the Martis Valley West Parcel project — a separate 760 residential unit proposal for Martis Valley, west of Highway 267 and outside the Tahoe Basin (which does not require approval from the bi-state TRPA) — is amid environmental review.

A draft Environmental Impact Report is anticipated to be released mid-October, Riva said, likely for a 45-day public review and comment period.

Originally, 112 of those 760 residential units were planned for where the Brockway Campground is proposed, before the developer suspended that portion of the project due to public and agency feedback.

"As far as I'm concerned, (the campground) is just getting the foot in the door for the Martis West development," said Tony Ceil, a Tahoe native. "The real problem here is the ridgeline development that is hidden behind all of this. It would be great to have this non-intrusive, non-impactful front up there on the ridge, and get the prescient out there, so we can very easily raise everything behind it and develop a tremendous amount of unnecessary second home space."

The Martis Valley West project was borne out of a previous agreement among conservation groups Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation, along with then-East West Partners and landowner Sierra Pacific Industries.

The deal, finalized in 2013, aims to protect 6,376 acres of land east of Highway 267 indefinitely, thus creating more than 50,000 continuous acres of open space between the valley and the Mt. Rose Wilderness Area.