Courts order Placer County to rescind Olympic Valley development approvals
OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — Approvals from the Placer County Board of Supervisors to further develop areas within Olympic Valley have been rescinded following an Aug. 22 court order.
At its meeting last week, the Placer County Board of Supervisors unanimously rescinded the Village at Palisades Tahoe Specific Plan, which would have paved the way for the development of up to 850 hotel, condominium, and fractional ownership residential units along with new commercial, retail, and recreational land uses.
Build out under the specific plan would result in new 1,493 bedrooms in the valley. Additionally, 293,000 square feet of commercial development would include skier services, restaurants, and the Mountain Adventure Camp — a large indoor recreational facility that is anticipated to include a swimming pool, climbing walls, an arcade, movie theater, and bowling alley.
In total, the plan area encompasses approximately 93.33 acres, most of which consists of the 85-acre resort village located at the west end of the valley within the existing Palisades Ski Resort base area. In addition, an approximately 8.8-acre area referred to as the East Parcel, is located roughly 1.3 miles east of the main village area and 0.3 miles west of the intersection of Highway 89 and Olympic Valley Road, across the street from the Olympic Valley Public Services District offices and fire station.
The project was originally approved of by the board in 2016. Soon after, Sierra Watch, a nonprofit environmental organization, filed a CEQA lawsuit challenging claims related to adequately describing the environmental setting of the Tahoe basin, impacts on emergency evacuations, impacts on traffic, noise impacts, and issues surrounding water sources.
In August, 2018, the Placer County Superior Court ruled in favor of the county’s decision, resulting in Sierra Watch filing an appeal of that ruling. In August, 2021, the court of appeals ruled that the environmental review analysis was deficient and that further analysis was needed regarding Lake Tahoe water quality impacts, evacuation times during emergencies, further discussion of noise impacts, and traffic impact mitigation.
“Because of these deficiencies in the EIR, the project approvals must be vacated,” said Patrick Dobbs, senior planner, Placer County Community Development Resource Agency.
Last August, the court issued a peremptory writ of mandate, requiring the county to rescind its approvals of the project.
“We did it,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch, in a news release. “It’s taken eleven years of commitment and dedication to prove how we can combine our passion for the Sierra into a successful movement to protect the mountains we love.
“Alterra’s project sounded like a good time – in Vegas,” added Mooers. “But had no place in the mountains of Tahoe.”
Whit Manley, counsel for Alterra Mountain Co., which owns and operates Palisades Tahoe and is proposing the development, argued that a decision regarding the appeal should have been made long ago.
“It’s kind of frustrating to have the court of appeals take that long, but it is what it is,” said Manley.
Despite the setback, Manley stated that Alterra plans to continue moving forward with the project.
“My client remains committed to this project,” he said. “My client believes that this project is in the best interest of the county. My client recognizes that there are citizens that disagree with that.”
With developers seeking to move forward with the Village at Palisades Tahoe Specific Plan, a revised draft environmental impact report is being prepared and will be circulated for public review. From there, a planning commission hearing will be held to receive comments on the revised draft environmental impact report. A final environmental impact report will then be created and circulated. The Olympic Valley Municipal Advisory Council will then meet to make a recommendation on the project, which will then head back to Placer County Planning commission for a public hearing, before finally returning to the Placer County Board of Supervisors.
For more information on the project, visit http://www.placer.ca.gov/8213/Village-at-Palisades-Tahoe-Specific-Plan.
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