High hopes for Homewood | SierraSun.com

High hopes for Homewood

Courtesy of JMA Ventures/Sierra SunA rendering for the mid-mountain lodge, to be accessed via gondola, shows part of the redevelopment plans that new owner JMA Ventures is formulating for Homewood Mountain Resort.

Homewood Mountain Resort has set the bar high.

The new owners of the venerable West Shore resort announced at a public meeting last week that they will not just provide the community with a favorite ski area, but will follow strict environmental practices in a new development.

Their plans include a small village at the north base of the resort, a mid-mountain lodge accessed via gondola, underground parking, a bike path extension and private residences at the south base.

Proposed “green” practices include a biomass facility, hydro-powered chairlifts and increased public transit.

“What we’re trying to do is lift the standard of anything that’s been done here, but maintain the character of Homewood,” said Art Chapman, president of JMA Ventures, the San Francisco development company that owns Homewood and Alpine Meadows ski areas and several other properties in Tahoe-Truckee and the Bay Area.

More than 150 people attended a forum at the Homewood resort Thursday hosted by JMA Ventures and mediated by Streamline Consulting Group.

JMA closed escrow on the Homewood ski area in June 2006 and has since met with homeowner associations, Rotary, Tuesday Breakfast Club, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Placer County officials.

The development firm says it’s interested in maintaining the character or Homewood and utilizing community opinion to make the resort a West Shore favorite.

“We have no secrets, we have nothing to hide here,” JMA vice president Rick Brown told the audience. “We’re still reaching out to you ” we really appreciate this heartfelt turnout.”

While actual construction is still a couple years away, JMA Ventures has solidified plans for its north base. An ice cream shop, hardware store, market, 50-room hotel, spa and a 40-condo complex will comprise a small village.

“Something where the local people can come over and they don’t have to drive to Tahoe City,” Chapman said.

Besides the proposed new mid-mountain lodge, JMA Ventures aims to build only where development already exists.

Architects are designing a mid-mountain lodge accessed via gondola in “Old Tahoe” style. The parking lots at both the north and south base on Highway 89 would be replaced with underground parking. And both an ice skating rink and a swimming pool would be open to the public.

Additionally, the developers said they intend to build a permanent amphitheater to host the annual Lake Tahoe Music Festival.

Reducing traffic is another important aspect, they said.

“We’re trying to keep transportation off of Highway 89; we do not like cars,” Chapman said.

Besides a gondola carrying skiers between the north base and the mid-mountain lodge, the developers are considering using a carriage to connect the north and south bases.

Locals might be most excited by the prospect of shorter lift lines.

In an effort to reduce traffic congestion on Highway 89 and thereby preserve Lake Tahoe’s clarity, the resort is going to cap skier numbers at around 3,300.

“If Lake Tahoe is to remain viable, we have to come up with a program that’s environmentally friendly that reduces traffic and improves the neighborhood,” Chapman told the West Shore gathering.

And while the company has no immediate plans for an off-highway connection between Homewood and Alpine ski areas, season passes are available that can be used at both resorts.

Plans for the south base are further off, company officials said, but will include private residences and small food and beverage operations.

Developers expect the environmental review process to be completed around the end of 2008.

Both the developers and the public said they were pleased overall with the workshop. Neighbors had an opportunity in a small-group session to comment on what they liked and disliked about the proposed plans.

Some residents applauded JMA’s promise of environmental stewardship, its “vision,” a reduction in skier numbers and an extension of the bike path down the West Shore. Others said they were still concerned about water runoff, building heights, tree removal and the vague number of total buildings in the development.

“I want to commend them for trying to reach out to the public,” said Tahoe City resident Paul Vatistas. “I think there was a good response to what they’re proposing specifically for the ski resort in the winter. But they failed to address the more controversial issues surrounding summer activities, tall buildings and the condos.”

Any questions left unanswered were to be addressed on Homewood’s Web site, the firm’s representatives said. Officials said they are willing to address further concerns and will establish a preview center by Sept. 17 to illustrate its redevelopment plans for the resort.

The center will be located at 5290 West Lake Blvd., Suite B, in Homewood.

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