League to Save Lake Tahoe, Sierra Watch, Mountain Area Preservation sue over Martis Valley West (updated)
November 10, 2016
This story was originally published on Nov. 10 at 3:08 p.m. It has since been updated to include additional information.
TRUCKEE, Calif. — A second lawsuit has been filed against Placer County for its approval of the Martis Valley West Specific Plan.
The League to Save Lake Tahoe, Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation announced Nov. 10 in a joint statement they are collectively filing a lawsuit against Placer County on the grounds that the Board of Supervisors’ approval of the Martis Valley West Specific Plan in October jeopardizes efforts to "Keep Tahoe Blue," since the proposed 760-unit housing development is located just outside of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
The move comes on the heels of the California Clean Energy Committee's decision to file a complaint against Placer County on Oct. 26 over the same project.
“The Martis Valley West proposal poses a direct threat to Lake Tahoe and its famous clarity,” said League to Save Lake Tahoe Executive Director Darcie Goodman Collins in the statement issued on Nov. 10.
“For years, our groups have attempted to collaborate with the developers and Placer County to find a solution that protects the Lake," she said. "Asking the courts to enforce the law is a last resort, but the developers have done nothing to address their project's threats to Tahoe."
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is tasked with assessing whether developments within the basin pose a threat to the lake. Because the Martis Valley West development sits just outside the basin boundary, TRPA has no jurisdiction.
The project, located along Highway 267 between Northstar California and the Tahoe Basin boundary, includes 760 single-family homes — a 600-unit reduction from what the community plan allowed and what the developer originally considered.
The proposal was for the developer, Mountainside Partners, with landowner Sierra Pacific Industries, to move the project from the east side of Highway 267 to the west side, so the east parcel could be made available for conservation.
The complicated land-swap went awry when conservation and environmental groups were not able to come to an agreement with the developer about how many homes should be built in the west.
The developer said that 760 homes was a significant reduction from the 1,360 that would’ve been allowed on the east parcel, while conservationists argue that number is too many.
"By developing the project just outside the Tahoe Basin, the project proponents are attempting to take advantage of the beauty and attraction of Lake Tahoe without committing to any protections to ensure the Lake is preserved for future generations to enjoy," said Mountain Area Preservation Executive Director Alexis Ollar in the joint-statement.
The Placer County Board of Supervisors approved the plan in a 4-1 decision in October, despite the county planning commission's previous recommendation to deny it.
"If this project was proposed within the Tahoe Basin, the developers would not only have to resolve threats to the Lake, but would have to provide associated environmental benefits for Tahoe," Goodman Collins said.
Update, Nov. 10, 4:46 p.m.:
When asked to comment on the announcement, Mountainside Partners Managing Partner Blake Riva said in an email to the Sierra Sun, “We have been notified that a lawsuit has been filed by Sierra Watch, Mountain Area Preservation and the League to Save Lake Tahoe as relates to the Martis Valley West Project which was recently approved by Placer County. Sierra Pacific Industries and Mountainside Partners will continue to work closely with Placer County as they prepare a response to the filing.”
Placer County Deputy Counsel Karin Schwab said the county had not yet been served.