IOV chairman: Excluding Squaw Valley resort an ‘illogical’ move
May 19, 2014
OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — The grassroots group Incorporate Olympic Valley is firing back against a suggestion from the CEO of Squaw Valley to exclude the ski resort from the proposed town's limits.
In a May 7 letter to Placer County's Local Agency Formation Commission, IOV chairman Fred Ilfeld said such a move would be "illogical" in terms of the proposed town's finances and services.
"Olympic Valley's community includes the ski resort, which Mr. (Andy) Wirth correctly states is the area's single largest economic driver," Ilfeld wrote in the letter. "Mr. Wirth contends that the new town as proposed is not fiscally viable. Yet his proposed solution is to remove the community's largest source of revenue."
That move would ensure the town isn't fiscally viable, Ilfeld said in a Friday interview.
Based on boundaries that follow the Squaw Valley Public Service District — which include Squaw Valley — the town would be viable, generating $484,000 in annual surplus, based on $4.74 million in revenue mainly from transient occupancy and property taxes, according to an IOV-financed analysis.
In a May 9 response to LAFCO, Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, restated Squaw Valley Ski Holdings' request for the agency to consider excluding Squaw Valley from town boundaries.
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"We acknowledge that excluding Squaw Valley from the new (town) may worsen the economic outlook for the proposed new city, but it is hardly illogical for Squaw Valley not to want to be part of something that we believe is not in the community's best interest or that is not financially sustainable," Wirth wrote. "The entire country is littered with towns and cities that have failed because they were too reliant on one company to a single source of revenue which closes, runs on hard times or otherwise ceases to be the economic driver it once was. … We do not believe it is prudent for any city — Olympic Valley or otherwise — to be so dependent on one source of revenue."
In order to determine viability, LAFCO will commission an analysis by a neutral party. Bids are being taken until May 21, with the intention of awarding the contract on June 11, said Kristina Berry, executive officer for the local LAFCO office.
"We're trying to decide how to study alternative boundaries right now," Berry said Friday.
The alternative boundary proposed by Wirth will be considered, she said, but it's unknown how much it will be studied.
In his letter, Ilfeld wrote that excluding Squaw Valley would create an "unincorporated island" made up of only the ski resort.
"Service providers would have to drive through the new town to serve (the resort), which would be illogical and inefficient…" he wrote. "Further, the proposed boundaries ensure than residents, businesses and other stakeholders will benefit from responsive, locally determined land use policies to govern the entire valley just as the county zones and plans the valley cohesively today."
IOV's application outlines that the town would provide services such as snow removal, road maintenance, land-use planning and regulation, and administrative duties. SVPSD would provide water and sewer, emergency medical and fire protection services, with Placer County providing public transit, libraries and child protective services.
Excluding Squaw Valley would not create an "island," Wirth wrote.
"That fact that Squaw Valley today is part of the Squaw Valley Public Services District is of historical interest, but hardly dispositive. … Squaw Valley operates largely independent today," he said.
The resort provides its own snow removal, road maintenance and trash removal, while homeowner associations oversee control of their buildings and neighborhoods, he said.
"We do not believe that Placer County is treating our region unfairly, and as such, we see no reason for a new (town) for which Squaw Valley would bear the majority of the burden and risk associated with incorporation's failure," Wirth said.
At its heart, the incorporation effort is an issue of local control, Ilfeld said.
"We want self-determination over land use, revenues and service," he said, something believed to benefit all.
According to previous reports, incorporation was triggered in part by Squaw Valley's village expansion project. Despite a scaled-back proposal unveiling in December 2013 based on public feedback, the incorporation effort continued.
Ilfeld said the incorporation effort is not anti-development. In fact, he expects the town to be largely supportive of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings — both in operations and future development plans.
"It would be in the town's best financial interest to have development that is thoughtfully done, consistent with Squaw Valley's character and values, and environmentally sustainable," he said.
But Wirth said a process to ensure that already exists.
"Given the open and robust process to date on the proposed base area redevelopment, there can be no argument that any development is subjective to vigorous oversight," Wirth wrote. "Simply put, we believe that the form of government we have today works well and the proposed (town) creates too much risk for our community and its businesses."
Berry said LAFCO will look at everything from financial to environmental factors in determining whether the incorporation effort can move forward.
"I don't feel pressured besides doing everything thoroughly and accurately, and wanting to make sure everything is done correctly," she said.
If LAFCO approves incorporation, an election among Olympic Valley registered voters would follow, in which a simple majority — more than 50 percent — must vote in favor for it to become a town.
The last successful incorporation effort in Placer County was the town of Loomis in 1984.