My Turn: Squaw Valley and alphabet soup
March 10, 2014
Upon publication of this opinion column, Alex Fisch, senior planner with Placer County, asked that a link to the county’s web page be included, which he said will enable interested parties to view complete project information. The link is here:
Welcome to the alphabet soup of land use decision making. When Placer County released its NOP (Notice of Preparation) for the proposed Squaw Valley Specific Plan recently, it was the first serving in what will be a steady diet of acronyms in the months and years ahead.
As the County reviews KSL Capital Partners' proposal to build 1,700 bedrooms and an indoor water park in Squaw Valley, they'll also release a DEIR (Draft Environmental Impact Report), perhaps an RDEIR (Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report), followed by the FEIR (Final Environmental Impact Report).
Are you with me so far?
All the while, there will be meetings held by the DRC (Design Review Committee) and MAC (Municipal Advisory Committee); and regulatory scrutiny by the LRWQCB (Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board), the NSAQMD (Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District), and, possibly, even TRPA (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency); in a process mandated, of course, by CEQA ( the California Environmental Quality Act).
But don't let the acronyms get you down!
As you try to stay afloat in a sea of capital letters, don't lose sight of what's really at stake: the future of Squaw Valley and the Tahoe Sierra.
The NOP is your first chance to get involved. Like most of the acronyms in the planning process, the NOP is designed to engage meaningful public involvement and ensure that decisions are based on a true understanding of the future impacts of any proposed development.
The 'N' in NOP is for 'Notice' — a Notice to you; the 'P' is for 'Preparation' − the Preparation of a full environmental assessment. Its official purpose is to "solicit guidance from members of the public agencies as to the scope and content of the environmental information to be included in the EIR."
You can find the NOP at: http://tinyurl.com/kuk64hr .
Basically it's Placer County's way of telling us that someone has applied for development entitlements and that they will be assessing the potential impacts of the proposal.
Even more important, it's our opportunity to point out what's important to us by sending comment letters to flag what we think merits scrutiny in the impending environmental assessment.
Like most of the CEQA-driven acronyms, there is a deadline; we have until March 24 to tell the County what's important to us.
When it comes to a proposal of at the massive size, scale, and scope of KSL's plans for Squaw Valley, there is a lot to scrutinize. For example:
• If the supply of adequate drinking water is important to you, tell them: The EIR must include a comprehensive water supply assessment that takes into account long-term availability of water supplies.
• If you don't want to spend your Tahoe time stuck in traffic, demand: The EIR must provide clear numbers on how much traffic more than 1,700 new bedrooms — and an indoor amusement park with 300,000 annual visitors — would add to Highway 89.
• If you like to ski or ride Squaw's legendary terrain, ask: The EIR must consider, in cultural terms, what this development would do to "The Soul of Skiing."
• If you like to see the stars at night, write: The EIR must calculate cumulative increases in light pollution and how it would impact the night sky.
• If you're idea of a High Sierra view includes mountains instead of buildings, tell them: The EIR must analyze the impacts of the proposed project and its multiple 108-feet tall buildings on scenic vistas in Squaw.
Those are just five examples out of five million potential issues. The point is to convey what's important to you — from your own unique perspective.
Just put it in a letter and send it to:
Placer County, Planning Services Division
Attention: Maywan Krach, Community Development Technician
3091 County Center Drive Suite 190
Auburn, CA 95603
Telephone: (530) 745-3132; Fax: (530) 745-3080
You won't be alone in doing so.
Those regulatory agencies will be writing comments. Sierra Watch is engaging our legal and planning experts to draft our own thorough letter. And it's the citizens' comments, even if they are more heartfelt than legalistic, that can have the most meaning of all.
So type up your thoughts and send them to Placer County. Then heat yourself up a nice bowl of soup. Real soup. You deserve it.
For more information on proposed development in Squaw Valley and how to get involved, call Sierra Watch: 530-265-2849.
Tom Mooers is executive director of Sierra Watch.