Squaw claims second victory in development lawsuit
August 15, 2018
Squaw Valley claimed another victory after a judge ruled in favor of the resort, and Placer County, in a second lawsuit that Sierra Watch claimed the official environmental impact report concerning Squaw Valley's major redevelopment project was inadequate.
Placer County Superior Court Judge Michael W. Jones ruled that the EIR adequately examined the regional and environmental impacts including traffic, greenhouse gas, noise and water impacts and emergency evacuations.
"The court's unequivocal ruling in favor of Placer County demonstrates that Sierra Watch's claims were false — there was no CEQA violation as it relates to the approval of the Village at Squaw Valley Redevelopment Plan," said Whit Manley, who represented the resort in a released statement.
"Obviously, we respectfully disagree and we are preparing to take our case to the California Court of Appeals," read a press release from Sierra Watch.
"This setback is temporary. Our commitment to the Sierra is timeless."
The project, originally submitted to Placer County in May 2012, involves the development of up to 850 hotel, condominium and residential units and a 90,000 square-foot indoor adventure center.
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at email@example.com or 530-550-2652.
Court Upholds Environmental Study, Placer County Board of Supervisors Approval of Squaw Valley Redevelopment Project
Decision marks second consecutive ruling in favor of the project, rejecting Sierra Watch's allegations of Brown Act and California Environmental Quality Act violations
[Olympic Valley, Calif.] August 15, 2018 – Placer County Superior Court Judge Michael W. Jones has ruled in favor of Squaw Valley Real Estate and Placer County in the second of two lawsuits filed by Sierra Watch against Placer County's approval of the Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan. The plan, consisting of new lodging, an indoor recreation area, commercial space, leveled parking and employee housing on 93.3 acres of developed land and parking lot in Olympic Valley, was approved by the Placer County Board of Supervisors on November 15, 2016. The court rejected Sierra Watch's claim that the project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was inadequate and violated eight areas of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The CEQA ruling follows the court's recent ruling against Sierra Watch's separate allegation that Placer County's approval of the project violated the Brown Act.
"The court's unequivocal ruling in favor of Placer County demonstrates that Sierra Watch's claims were false – there was no CEQA violation as it relates to the approval of the Village at Squaw Valley Redevelopment Plan," said Whit Manley, environmental attorney at Remy Moose Manley, LLP who appeared in court on behalf of Squaw Valley Real Estate, LLC and Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC. "In fact, this project has been one of the most thoroughly studied projects in the County's history and was reduced by 50 percent based on community input and feedback collected at over 400 community meetings over five years."
The Environmental Setting: The ruling found that the EIR adequately examined regional impacts, including traffic impacts to Lake Tahoe Basin, despite the fact that the project is not located within the Tahoe Basin.
Emergency Evacuations: The ruling concluded that the EIR addressed the issues of evacuation and the ability of emergency personnel to respond, and pointed out that additional recommendations by the Squaw Valley Fire Department to add staff and a new fire substation were voluntarily adopted into the scope of the project.
Traffic Impacts & Public Transit Impacts: The court upheld the EIR's determinations on traffic impacts and public transit.
Greenhouse Gas Impacts: The court confirmed that the EIR properly addressed measures that would help to mitigate greenhouse gas impacts and ensure compliance with emissions targets in effect at the time of subdivision map submittal.
Noise Impacts: Noise impacts were also found to have been properly analyzed, taking into account a "worst case scenario" of construction activity at 19 different locations.
Water Impacts: The court found Sierra Watch's claims about water impacts to be speculative and determined that the County's conclusion that the anticipated future water supply for the project is realistic and reasonably certain to be available.
Rejection of Alternatives: The court concluded that there is substantial evidence to support the County's finding of economic infeasibility of the "reduced density alternative," which would reduce the indoor recreation area and subsequently not attract enough guests during shoulder seasons to make the project costs feasible.
In a separate ruling issued in late July, the same court rejected Sierra Watch's allegation that the Brown Act was violated by Placer County's approval of the project.
"The court's ruling in favor of Placer County demonstrates that despite Sierra Watch's claim, there was in fact no Brown Act violation as it relates to the approval of the Village at Squaw Valley Redevelopment Plan," continued Manley. "With this piece of litigation out of the way, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings is one step closer to bringing the benefits associated with this project to the community. This includes an air quality donation of over $440,000 to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the governmental agency tasked with protecting Lake Tahoe. Other project benefits include the restoration of Squaw Creek, millions of dollars in park and recreation improvements, the creation of new on-site workforce housing, and over $22 million in annual tax revenue to help fund public services including schools, road improvements, transit services and public safety."
"Together, these two rulings effectively put an end to Sierra Watch's strong arm campaign to force Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows to abandon our plans to renew and expand The Village at Squaw Valley," said Ron Cohen, president and COO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC. "Sierra Watch employed false and inflated claims to divide and damage the broader Squaw Alpine community. While it was ultimately unsuccessful in both of its lawsuits, Sierra Watch left broken relationships and community division in their tracks. As we move forward, we are committed not just to building a renewed and vibrant Village, but also to building it upon a new foundation of trust and community inclusion. We look forward to this exciting future."
About Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows
Voted 'Best Ski Resort' in North America for the third year in a row by USA Today and 10Best Readers' Choice, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is an internationally renowned mountain resort in North Lake Tahoe, California. Spanning over 6,000 skiable acres across two mountains, skiers and riders of all ability levels are welcomed by over 65 percent beginner and intermediate terrain, 14 easy-to-navigate mountain zones and a custom app to make the most of every visit. The resort features slopeside lodging at The Village at Squaw Valley®, which bustles year round with nonstop events and over 50 bars, restaurants and boutiques. With an annual average of 450 inches of snowfall and 300 sunny California days, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is known as the Spring Skiing Capital™ as it provides one of the longest ski and snowboard seasons in Lake Tahoe. Visit squawalpine.com or call 1.800.403.0206 to learn more.