With OK of master plan, what’s next for Diamond Peak Ski Resort? | SierraSun.com

With OK of master plan, what’s next for Diamond Peak Ski Resort?

Josh Staab
jstaab@sierrasun.com

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — What should the next steps be for the Diamond Peak master plan?

That question was at the root of a discussion Incline Village General Improvement District trustees addressed last month before voting 4-1 to approve staff's recommendation to accept the ski area's amended master plan. Trustee Tim Callicrate voted against.

The approval authorized staff to submit the plan to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, US Forest Service and Washoe County for environmental clearances and approval, and for staff to submit for concurrent review of the master plan's Phase 1a by TRPA and the county for construction permits.

Those permits, however, would not be issued until all environmental review processes are completed.

With visioning work complete on the plan — which has been revised by the Diamond Peak Steering Committee and consultant firm SE Group (work that initially began in April 2013) — IVGID Director of Asset Management Brad Johnson told trustees and those in the audience at the Oct. 21 meeting that if ever there was a time to put a plan into motion, this was that time.

"We've done enough of the visioning process," Johnson said. "It's time to finish doing homework and start moving through the regulatory due diligence."

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NEXT STEPS

Staff will next draft an environmental impact statement, consistent with requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. That draft will be prepared by a consultant selected and hired by the TRPA, which will require the district to enter into contract with TRPA to fund the work, according to a staff report.

That process will likely take anywhere between 18 to 24 months to complete, in order to assess the plan's impact to threatened and/or endangered species, air and water quality, historic and cultural sites and resources, as well traffic and noise, Johnson said.

"This environmental clearance process is a slog," Johnson said.

A roughly $10,000 contract will be awarded under staff authority to SE Group to prepare pertinent application documents to be submitted to TRPA and the USFS, according to IVGID.

After that, staff will recommend at a future meeting for trustees to authorize a contract between the district and TRPA to complete NEPA analysis and develop the EIS document.

According to Johnson, this contract could cost anywhere from $350,000 to $400,000.

A total of $250,000 for the project was included in the 2014-15 capital improvement budget, and carried forward an additional $150,000 included in the 2015-16 capital improvement budget.

Callicrate, who has taken issue with the proposal in the past, remains concerned if money is committed and the project doesn't come to fruition, that funding will have been wasted when there are other projects already moving forward that haven't been completed that could use money.

"This is potentially a huge undertaking," Callicrate said at the Oct. 21 meeting. "I'm just concerned we're taking on something new when we have a lot on our plate that we haven't even done yet for what we are currently obliged to take care of."

FUTURE INVESTMENT

The full scope of the project, including all four of its phases, has been projected to cost $14.6 million. Initial debt to be paid by IVGID residents would be around $2.3 million, according to projections.

The goal of Phase 1, as described in the staff report's project summary, "is to provide new amenities and activities for the community of and guests to the communities of Incline Village and Crystal Bay."

According to the report, the plan prioritizes "revenue-generating" activities to generate up-front net operating income to offset capital costs for future phases.

Those activities would include a challenge course, a canopy tour, mountain bike trails, a base area bike loop for families and children, an alpine coaster, and an upgrade of the Lakeview Lift, among other things.

The total price tag for all activities within that first phase, which will be broken into Phase 1a and Phase 1b, is projected to cost $4.25 million. Of the activities slated for Phase 1b, only the alpine coaster would be planned, should Phase 1a be deemed a success. The cost of that coaster alone is projected at $1.76 million.

The five-year capital plan averages about $7.5 million annually in capital investment, district wide, Johnson noted. About $35 million to $40 million is planned over the next five years, including master plans for IVGID's other properties, like its beaches, Diamond Peak, tennis courts and others.

Johnson also added the concurrent review would allow for a streamlined analysis process. If the reviews were separated, additional costs would have to be accounted for.

"Nothing on IVGID's plate has this profit potential," said Al O'Connor, a proponent for the plan, who was also a steering committee member.

O'Connor made his comments during the public comment period that followed Johnson's presentation.

"As a resident, I hope that both (the IVGID board) and your successors carefully scrutinize the cost when asked to proceed on the various products in this plan," O'Connor added.

A SURVEY OF RESIDENTS?

However, not all share O'Connor's optimism for the approved plan. Some, like fellow steering committee member Bill Echols, pressed the board on why it hadn't called for a more focused survey of the project, to gain more comprehensive feedback from the community.

"We, the dissenters, did not ask for much. Effectively all we asked for was that the board of trustees conducts a poll of property owners to find out if they want to undertake summertime activities at Diamond Peak," Echols said. "After all, it is their money that (IVGID is) spending and they are the ones taking the financial risk."

Echols also reiterated a portion IVGID General Manager Steve Pinkerton's Oct. 14 North Lake Tahoe Bonanza GM Corner column, "District provides service – not profits – to the community," which asserted, "it wasn't IVGID that requested that we provide the 'nice to haves' — it was the community."

"Really? There was this massive, spontaneous upwelling of demand for summertime activities at Diamond Peak by the property owners?" Echols asked. "That's not how I recall it happening."

Poll those community members, Echols said, and find out if that is what they truly want and not just "what IVGID staffers want."

"There are about 8,000 people out there who we don't hear from," Echols said. "I think there are opportunities to tweak this even more, to get more feedback from a more diverse group."

As for what's next, future planning on the project could begin sometime in the early part of 2016; however, it remains uncertain when IVGID officials will reconvene to discuss future plans.

More online

Visit bit.ly/1MioltP for more information on the Diamond Peak Master Plan.