Squaw claims victory in development lawsuit
August 10, 2018
A Placer County judge has ruled in favor of Placer County and Squaw Valley Resort against a lawsuit filed by Sierra Watch, a nonprofit environmental organization, that claimed the county had violated the Brown Act when approving a 25-year village redevelopment project at Squaw Valley.
Sierra Watch plans to appeal this decision.
The Brown Act ensures the public's right to participate in the government's decision-making process.
In its case, Sierra Watch said a memo announcing that Squaw Valley agreed to pay a Tahoe Regional Planning Association Air Quality Mitigation Fee of over $440,000, was not available to the public within 72 hours before the Nov. 15, 2016 meeting when the project was approved by supervisors.
The memo wasn't emailed to the Board of Supervisors until 5:36 p.m. Nov. 14, the complaint states. A copy of the memo was placed at the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors Office in Auburn, meaning the document was not available to the public prior to the meeting during the next day's normal business hours.
The judge ruled the county was not a party to the fee agreement. He also ruled that the agreement was not significant enough to require notice in a public agenda.
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"Jones sided with the County and its claim that it was not party to the agreement — even though the county's own announcement, its leadership role in negotiations, a string of emails detailing the county's demands, and the agreement itself all prove otherwise," Tom Mooers executive director of Sierra Watch, said in a news release. "Sierra Watch respectfully disagrees. And we look forward to appealing this decision to the court of appeals in the fall."
"The court's unequivocal ruling in favor of Placer County demonstrates that Sierra Watch's claims were patently false. There was no Brown Act violation as it relates to the approval of the Village at Squaw Valley Redevelopment Plan," said Whit Manley, who is representing Squaw Valley, in an email. "Squaw Valley Ski Holdings is one step closer to bringing the benefits associated with this project to the community."
This was one of two separate lawsuits filed by Sierra Watch, a second alleging that the county had not fully analyzed the effect of the project in terms of fire safety, traffic and environmental effects on the Lake Tahoe Basin. A ruling on this case has not yet been released.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2652.