Opinion: Tune out schoolyard shouts, focus on Squaw Valley project impacts | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Tune out schoolyard shouts, focus on Squaw Valley project impacts

Tom Mooers
Special to the Sun

Thanks to the editorial staff of the Sierra Sun for last week reminding readers that the deadline for comments on the Squaw Valley Village Draft Environmental Impact Report is fast approaching.

Meaningful public involvement is one of the best ways to ensure a good outcome for Squaw and Tahoe.

Big decisions deserve reasoned debate. Unfortunately, much of the discussion of Squaw Valley gets dragged down into schoolyard-style shouts of "Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!"

This is an all too familiar strategy: if you can't win a debate on the real issues, attack. Attack people who disagree with you; disparage their integrity; and distract attention from the real issues.

In Tahoe, relentless personal attacks threaten to discourage the kind of public participation the region needs and to shift the public debate away from what really matters: Are development proposals by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings and KSL Capital Partners the right blueprint for the future of Squaw?

It is disheartening to read a rehash of misguided personal attacks in the Sun's editorial, "Clock is ticking for Squaw Valley expansion input," stemming from Andy Wirth's July 9 opinion column in the Auburn Journal.

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It would be one thing if KSL's attacks on Sierra Watch (and on me) were true and helped to set the record straight. They're not. They are a strategic attempt to disparage and distract.

KSL attacks Sierra Watch for pointing that their project would be so big, "it would take 25 years of day and night construction to build."

But we don't make this stuff up; it's spelled out in Placer County's environmental review of the proposed project, which clearly states, "The Specific Plan would be developed over an estimated 25-year buildout period," and "Project construction would require night time construction work that would exceed applicable Placer County noise standards."

The real question is: Should Placer County approve a project of such a massive scale that it might take 25 years to construct?

KSL attacks Sierra Watch for pointing out that many of their buildings would be 10 stories tall. We're challenged to convey the size and scope of their proposals. Most people, when they hear "108 feet tall" don't have a clear sense of just how big that is. So we adopt what is a standard, if inexact, unit of measurement for the height of a building: the "story."

Wikipedia puts "one story" at "around 10 feet". So when KSL is proposing a series of buildings 100 feet in height, they are indeed proposing a series of 10-story tall buildings.

Madison Square Garden, for example, has only one floor (there's nothing in between the basketball court and the ceiling). But it is still a 15-story tall building.

The more important point is that no matter how you measure them — in feet (100) or in stories (10) — the proposed buildings are too tall for Squaw Valley.

And we're accused of being misleading by referring to KSL's proposed "Mountain Adventure Center" as an "indoor amusement park."

But their application asks for permission for a massive building that would draw 300,000 visitors to its indoor water slides; action rivers; arcades; wake boarding; 30 bowling lanes; simulated sky diving; miniature golf; water skiing; trampoline; wave rider; and more. That's a lot of amusement — indoors.

The real question is whether an indoor amusement park — or whatever it's called — makes sense amid the great outdoors of the Tahoe Sierra.

Hopefully you can tune out the schoolyard shouts and misguided mudslinging to let Placer County know how you feel about what really matters to Squaw, to Tahoe, to you — and write a letter.

Because 10, 20, 120 years from now, no one's going to care what he said or she said or I said. But they will care about the land-use decisions we make and live with the legacy we leave behind.

Comments should be mailed to Placer County Community Development Resource Agency, Environmental Coordination Services, 3091 County Center Drive, Suite 190, Auburn, CA 95603, Attention: Maywan Krach; faxed to 530-745-3080; or emailed to cdraecs@placer.ca.gov.

Tom Mooers is executive director of Sierra Watch. Visit sierrawatch.org to learn more.

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