Public review coming soon for Sierra rezoning development proposal | SierraSun.com

Public review coming soon for Sierra rezoning development proposal

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com
A view of Martis Valley near the proposed project, which plans to preserve thousands of acres of open space while developing about 85 acres within the Tahoe Basin.
Margaret Moran / Sierra Sun |

Staying informed

— Upcoming meeting: Sept. 23, 6 p.m., before Truckee Town Council at Town Hall, 10183 Truckee Airport Road. Presentation only, no public comment.

— Upcoming meeting: Oct. 20, time to be announced, before Placer County Board of Supervisors at Resort at Squaw Creek, 400 Squaw Creek Road, Olympic Valley.

— Upcoming meeting: Oct. 29, 5:30 p.m., before Truckee Tahoe Airport District board of directors at the airport, 10356 Truckee Airport Road. Presentation only, no public comment.

— Online: Visit mvwpfacts.com (Sierra Pacific/East West Partners website) or tinyurl.com/m5efsmo (Placer County website) to learn more about the project.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated from an earlier version to reflect that when Sierra Watch signed on to the original Martis Valley Opportunity Agreement in 2013, the TRPA application for development in the Lake Tahoe Basin was not part of it.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Public review will begin soon on a rezoning proposal that would protect thousands of acres of land in Martis Valley — while also allowing several acres of development in the Tahoe Basin.

The project — part of an agreement finalized last fall by landowner Sierra Pacific Industries; its development partner, East West Partners; and conservation groups Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation — would shift a development designation from a parcel located east of Highway 267 to the west.

“We may not always agree through this process in terms of all the elements, but … I think at the end of the day if we step back and look at it from a global perspective, hopefully, there is enough here that just about everyone in this area can understand what some of those benefits are,” said Blake Riva, senior partner with East West Partners.

Currently, 670 acres on the 6,376-acre east parcel is zoned for residential and commercial development under the Martis Valley Community Plan, according to Placer County, which allows for up to 1,360 residential units and 6.6 acres of commercial area.

The project proposes those 670 acres be rezoned to forest and all 6,376 acres become permanent open space, either by selling the property to conservation groups or through a conservation easement.

OPEN SPACE VS. DEVELOPMENT

“(It) represents a truly unique opportunity to make a vision for conservation legacy a reality,” Riva said before roughly 100 attendees at a presentation Thursday at The Treehouse near the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe.

By those 6,376 acres becoming open space, it will create more than 50,000 continuous acres of open space in Martis Valley, ranging from the valley floor to the Mt. Rose Wilderness Area, he said.

Meanwhile, 775 acres of the approximately 1,192-acre west parcel, which is located between Highway 267 and Northstar California, is identified by the proposal for potential future development, allowing for construction of up to 760 residential units and 34,500 square feet of neighborhood commercial.

Of the 775 acres, 112 acres are in the Lake Tahoe Basin, with 85 acres identified for development between Northstar and the Fiberboard Freeway.

“This is going to be a gated community inside the basin on the ridge, and we’re really, really, really worried about it,” said Ann Nichols, president of the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, at a Placer Local Agency Formation Commission meeting last Wednesday at Northstar. “… It’s unnecessary, and to compare the impacts on the basin and the view of the ridge to (conserving) 50,000 acres, it’s just something else.

“… You really need to think about is this really a good trade — if you save land outside the basin, do you get to develop land in the basin?”

OTHER CONCERNS

Darcie Goodman Collins, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said the environmental organization has concerns, too.

“While the league supports an overall agreement reached between the developers of Martis Valley and environmental groups, it cannot support the agreement’s current plan for building within the Tahoe Basin,” she said. “The overall agreement is excellent in that it retires a large portion of wilderness outside of the Tahoe Basin in exchange for the ability to develop a small portion of land within and without the Tahoe Basin.

“However, Tahoe’s new regional plan requires that any new development must include some environmental benefits within the Tahoe Basin watershed, and the current Martis Valley plan falls short in this respect.”

Collins said the league is working with Placer County and East West Partners to explore “how to create a benefit for the Tahoe Basin.”

Riva said any new units in the basin would comply with Tahoe Regional Planning Agency rules and environmental standards and lead to an equal number of “subpar” units currently in the basin to be removed.

“People will say, ‘Well, you’re moving development here in Martis Valley and putting it in the basin,’ and that’s not true because it will always be net zero in the basin,” he said. “Any unit we build in the basin, we’ve got to remove (one).”

Of the 760 units proposed on the west parcel, which would include a mix of single-family homes, multi-family homes and cabins, 112 would be in the basin as part of a cluster development over a coverage area of about 30 acres.

As for the commercial area, its purpose would be to serve the new residential community, not to become destination retail, Riva said.

NEXT STEPS

Later this year — likely around early December — Placer County will release a draft Environmental Impact Report on the proposal, while TRPA will release a draft Environmental Impact Statement, said Kurt Krieg, with East West Partners and senior project manager.

“We’re just on the front end of this endeavor,” Riva said. “It took us eight years to essentially get to the starting line, and we know in the coming weeks, months and probably years, there will be a lot of discussion about this, but, again, we think we have probably a once in a lifetime opportunity here.”

The public comment period; preparation and release of the final EIR and EIS; and review and vote by TRPA and Placer County, is potentially an 18- to 24-month process.

Based on that timeline, the earliest construction would start is in summer 2017, if approved, Riva said. Construction would be done in phases, with build-out occurring over 25 years, according to Placer County.

Yet, the ultimate build-out timeline will be dependent upon the market, Riva said.

Terry Davis, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, said he’s concerned about the project’s impacts to the Tahoe Basin.

“My understanding of the (TRPA) Regional Plan Update is that it anticipated that each Area Plan would be proposed where there was existing urban development in the basin …” he said. “This Area Plan would be simply tacked on to a project in Martis Valley that would be spilling over into the basin. I don’t think that’s what TRPA had in mind when they adopted their new plan.”

Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch, added: “As part of the Martis Valley Opportunity (agreement), we support the application with Placer County, but not the application for approvals with TRPA.”

When asked why, Mooers said Sierra Watch needs to look into the basin portion of the proposal further.

The TRPA application was not part of the Martis Valley Opportunity agreement that was finalized in late summer 2013, he said.