Lake Tahoe’s Homewood Ski Resort renovation up for first round of environmental review
HOMEWOOD, Calif. andamp;#8212; The landscape of Lake Tahoe’s ski resort industry has witnessed dramatic changes over the past few months with the sales of Northstar and Squaw Valley. Add to that the possible wholesale redevelopment of one of the area’s most locals-heralded mountains, and it could be the next step of a transformative era for the entire region.However, some maintain the proposed multi-million-dollar overhaul of Homewood Mountain Ski Resort on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore presents a level of environmental harm that outweighs potential economic good.JMA Ventures andamp;#8212; a San Francisco-based real estate firm andamp;#8212; unveiled the long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which goes before the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency this month for public comment, in late January.The review andamp;#8212; prepared by the third-party company Hauge Brueck Associates andamp;#8212; outlines numerous environmental ramifications of redeveloping the ski resort via six different alternatives. Alternative 1 is JMA’s preferred project.
Art Chapman, president of JMA Ventures, recently gave a presentation about Alternative 1, outlining the objective to create andamp;#8220;an upscale boutique ski resort the community can be proud of.andamp;#8221;During the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Meeting at Granlibakken in February, Chapman said JMA has placed emphasis on collecting public input, and due to many suggestions, project additions include installing a deli, a hardware store and an ice cream shop in the North Base area.Ed Miller, a Homewood resident, said the hardware store is an attractive element to many West Shore residents.andamp;#8220;Let’s say I’m fixing up my house and I need to buy a 25-cent washer,andamp;#8221; he said. andamp;#8220;The nearest hardware store is 16 miles away, which is a gallon of gas, meaning you just added about four dollars to the cost of the washer.andamp;#8221;Chapman said the ecological improvements of a completed project would make Homewood andamp;#8220;the most progressive environmental ski resort ever at Lake Tahoe.andamp;#8221; JMA is aiming for Gold LEED certification for all newly constructed buildings.Additionally, JMA has already invested money in restoring much of the soft coverage in the form of old U.S. Forest Service roads to its natural state. Soft coverage is developed area that is pervious or material that allows water to permeate the surface, such as a dirt road, as opposed to hard coverage which consists of impervious material like concrete or asphalt. Chapman estimates this has reduced sediment loading into the lake by 97 percent.Furthermore, the project will reduce overall property coverage by 13 percent.andamp;#8220;We are doing something to keep Tahoe blue,andamp;#8221; he said.The project also proposes to reduce vehicle miles traveled in the winter while increasing them in the summer as the resort attempts to attract more warm-weather visitors and offer alternative transportation methods such as bicycles and hybrid electric cars.Mason Overstreet, an associate with the Friends of the West Shore and critic of certain elements of the project, praised the developers for the environmental improvements incorporated into the redevelopment.andamp;#8220;They most definitely have gone the extra mile,andamp;#8221; he said.Nevertheless, Overstreet said the scale of the project is too large and is andamp;#8220;incompatible with the neighborhood of Homewood.andamp;#8221;Miller, who is in favor of the project, said he was worried the project would andamp;#8220;change the personality of the townandamp;#8221;; however, he said in order for the West Shore to be sustainable, it would needs more businesses to operate on a year-round basis.Overstreet further said the increased size of the resort and anticipated increase in tourism will create more traffic jams on State Route 89.
Carl Young, program director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe, commended JMA for carrying out the restoration of dirt roads on the property, but said andamp;#8220;retired coverageandamp;#8221; will be added to the project by the developers.andamp;#8220;We would really like a clear breakdown of how much coverage existed prior to the restoration, how much currently exists and how much coverage exist in the current project,andamp;#8221; he said. andamp;#8220;That information is not currently available in the DEIS.andamp;#8221;Young said if JMA is taking infrequently used dirt roads and transferring them into impervious surfaces, the environment could be harmed by such a maneuver. He also joined Overstreet in expressing concern over the potential negative traffic impacts a large-scale project could have on the area.Due to Emerald Bay and the Tahoe City Wye representing the only ingress/egress points from Homewood, Young said the area is particularly susceptible to traffic congestion. andamp;#8220;This project will increase traffic in the summer and I question the scale of development in an area that is already vulnerable to traffic,andamp;#8221; he said.Young said the conservation community has asked TRPA to extend the public comment period on the DEIS for an additional 30 days to allow members of the public andamp;#8220;ample time to review a lengthy and complex document.andamp;#8221; It currently expires March 21. After public comment expires, and if the TRPA governing board approves the draft document, TRPA staff will gather public comment and suggestions and work with Hauge Brueck to develop a Final Environmental Impact Statement.A timetable past March 21 is unknown.
David Tirman, executive vice president of JMA Ventures, conceded that hard coverage in the base area will increase, but encouraged critics to take a nuanced view of the situation.andamp;#8220;We are taking asphalt parking lots and changing them into parking garages,andamp;#8221; he said. andamp;#8220;So, essentially, we are replacing asphalt parking lots that are susceptible to large amounts of run-off with roofs. Also, the project calls for cisterns, which will capture one-third of the run-off from the roofs and divert them into cisterns that will be used for snowmaking operations in the winter and irrigation in the summer.Thus, Tirman said that rather than just look at the hard coverage increase at the base area, it’s important to analyze what type of hard coverage is being employed compared to what currently exists. Regarding traffic, Tirman said incorporating lodging facilities into the resort means Homewood will evolve from a ski destination exclusively for day commuters to one that can accommodate overnight guests, which will reduce day traffic during the winter.Additionally, Homewood is committed to providing alternative forms of transportation such as bicycles, shuttles and hybrid electric cars to offset the anticipated increase of traffic in the summer, Tirman said.