Former Lake Tahoe commissioner: Maybe new person ‘will have more luck’ | SierraSun.com

Former Lake Tahoe commissioner: Maybe new person ‘will have more luck’

The Placer County Planning Commission (Mickey Gray is second from left) sits before a very large audience in the North Tahoe Event Center on July 7, 2016, as they begin hearing updates to the Martis Valley West Environmental Impact Report.
Amanda Rhoades / Sierra Sun |

About the commission

The seven-member Placer County Planning Commission is the main advisory body to the Placer County Board of Supervisors on planning, land use and other matters, including proposed development projects.

Each member serves a four-year term. Five seats represent each county district (four of the five are located down the hill in the eastern portion of the county), in addition to two at-large members.

The at-large seats are divided as east and west of the Sierra Crest. Larry Sevison currently holds the seat east of the crest, with Wayne Nader holding the western seat.

Click here to learn more about the commission and its meetings.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Placer County is looking to fill the vacant seat of the Tahoe-area planning commissioner who voted this summer against the controversial Squaw Valley and Martis Valley West redevelopment projects.

Mickey Gray, a Donner Summit resident, had held the District 5 seat (representing Lake Tahoe/Donner Summit) on the Placer County Planning Commission the past eight years before his term expired Dec. 31.

“After eight years, I had other things that I wanted to do,” the former contractor told the Sierra Sun Friday when asked why he opted to retire. “ … It’s time for somebody else … maybe they will have more luck.”

When asked to expand on that latter comment, Gray, 65, said his views over the years haven’t aligned with other commissioners whose districts are not within the Lake Tahoe Basin or east of the Sierra Crest.

“The county is trying to assure itself of a tax base, and that sometimes drives the thinking on approving development … sometimes it does override up here what we might consider to be more practical.”Mickey Gray

“I think if you look at my record, I pretty much voted in line with most of the people up here, which isn’t the same as a lot of people in the western part of the county,” Gray said.

Gray’s tendency to listen to Tahoe locals was evident this past summer. He and fellow commissioner Wayne Nader were the two dissenting votes in the commission’s 4-2 decision in August 2016 to recommend the Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan — and the associated redevelopment project at the famed ski resort — for approval.

A month earlier, Gray joined the majority in a 5-2 planning commission vote to recommend denial of the Martis Valley West luxury development project near Northstar.

Both projects eventually earned 4-1 approval votes from the Placer County Board of Supervisors; in both cases, District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery voted against.

When asked to comment on how Gray has seen Placer County’s east-west divide evolve during his eight years on the commission, he said voting interests down the hill at times do not align with the interest of residents and homeowners at Lake Tahoe.

“I would say that predominantly, the county is trying to assure itself of a tax base, and that sometimes drives the thinking on approving development,” Gray said, in reference to the amount of money spent in the Lake Tahoe area each year, as well as its higher real estate prices and overall second-home-dominated nature. “It’s certainly a viable reason, but sometimes it does override up here what we might consider to be more practical.”

On Feb. 7, Placer County announced the District 5 seat was open by way of a press release.

Lindsay Romack, who works as Placer County’s Tahoe Field Representative for District 5, said Montgomery has been informing the public of the open seat through community coffees and MAC meeting “since the beginning of the year.”

There have been 14 applications received by the county as of Friday.

“We will begin scheduling interviews starting (this) week. Supervisor Montgomery would hope to have a person selected by the beginning of April and then that person would go before the Board of Supervisors to officially be appointed,” Romack said in a Friday email.

As for Gray, does he have any advice for his replacement?

“Speak out and be honest,” he answered.