$500 million Lake Tahoe ski resort redevelopment won’t break ground in ‘15 | SierraSun.com

$500 million Lake Tahoe ski resort redevelopment won’t break ground in ‘15

This file illustration shows the proposed mid-mountain lodge at Homewood Mountain Resort, as part of the original proposed $500 million multi-year renovation.
Courtesy JMA Ventures |

HOMEWOOD, Calif. — The much ballyhooed and consistently fought-over expansion of the Homewood Mountain Resort on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore is on hold again due to litigation.

Despite settling in January 2014 with a consortium of environmental groups that included the Tahoe Sierra Club, Friends of the West Shore and Earthjustice, the resort’s owner, JMA Ventures, is still unable to put a shovel in the ground for this year’s construction season at Tahoe, which started May 1

A Davis, Calif.-headquartered environmental nonprofit called California Clean Energy Committee filed a second, lesser-known lawsuit in Placer County Superior Court against Placer County and JMA on Dec. 8, 2011, according to CCEC Executive Director Eugene Wilson.

In late 2012, Placer County Superior Court ruled in favor of Placer County and JMA on all the issues raised by the CCEC, but an appeal was filed in December of that year, and both parties still are awaiting movement from the court.

The case is currently held up in the Third Appellate District of the California Court of Appeals.

“I think we could hear something in the next couple of months,” said Eugene Wilson, attorney representing the CCEC in the case.

While there is no injunction preventing Homewood from moving forward on the project, JMA Founder and Chairman Art Chapman said securing financing is next to impossible as long as the court case remains unresolved.

“We are trying to get a hearing on it,” Chapman said. “We have engaged a predevelopment team — an architect, engineers — and we are hopeful we can start the project in May 2016.”

ENERGY EFFICIENCY?

For his part, Wilson said the case against Placer County is strong because the county failed to consider the additional strain on the roads that resort expansion is sure to have, particularly relating to wildfire evacuation.

“The county has proceeded with this project, a large resort expansion on the West Shore, without any consideration of how it would affect West Shore wildfire evacuation safety,” the CCEC’s opening brief reads. “This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the project will be added to the West Shore without expanding the small, congested roadway that serves the area and without relieving the bottle-neck at the Truckee River.”

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READ MORE: After years of public meetings, environmental debates and legal maneuvers, developers expected to break ground this spring on a scaled-down renovation to Homewood Mountain Resort.

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Deputy Placer County Counsel Karin Schwab said the county remains confident it will prevail on the merits of the case.

“The trial court ruled that the county complied with the requirements of the (project’s environmental impact report) to consider wildlife evacuation routes in compliance with state law,” Schwab said. “We believe the appeal is as meritless as the initial petition and the court of appeal will uphold the trial court decision.”

Aside from concerns about wildfire evacuation routes, the CCEC alleges Homewood’s expansion would increase electricity consumption by 3,120 percent.

“We’re certainly concerned about the failure to analyze energy impacts,” Wilson said. “A lot of resorts are going to net zero energy type designs. There has been no explanation as to why a project of this scope and magnitude couldn’t do so as well.”

For its part, Homewood contends that while increased hotel and residential facilities will naturally lead to increased energy consumption, the project is committed to being as efficient as possible.

“Homewood is also planning for on-site generation of renewable energy including solar, geothermal and micro-hydro in order to help offset any increased energy use resulting from the plan,” said David Tirman, executive vice president of JMA.

PROJECT BACKGROUND

The Homewood redevelopment plan is a roughly $500 million project to construct a 5-star hotel with about 75 rooms; a variety of base area residences including condominiums, townhouse and chalets, workforce housing; and a retail-oriented village.

The project also calls for environmental improvement including the rehabilitation of land and stream environment zones, an emphasis on renewable energy and the incorporation of alternative transportation aimed at lessening reliance on the automobile.

The project was the second of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Community Enhancement Projects to be approved.

The CEP aims to leverage private investment to achieve substantive environmental gain by allowing property owners with built infrastructure to redevelop properties to reduce contributions to water and air pollution.

Homewood was approved in December 2011.

At the time, TRPA Executive Director Joanne Marchetta praised the approval, saying it would benefit the ecology on the West Shore.

The idea of renovating Homewood’s two base areas was first proposed in 2006, before JMA officially submitted an application in 2007.

The project would save the struggling West Shore ski resort — which reportedly has been hard hit by the Great Recession and has been playing catch-up to larger ski areas like Northstar California, Heavenly Mountain Resort and Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows — from closing.

Homewood, located near Tahoe City, has operated as a ski resort since 1962. Visit skihomewood.com for information.

Matthew Renda is a former reporter for the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and currently is a Santa Cruz-based writer. He may be reached for comment at matthew.renda@gmail.com.