‘Making something meaningful’: White Wolf project would bring Troy Caldwell’s dream to fruition at Tahoe
Having his own piece of Tahoe to call home became a dream of Troy Caldwell’s in the ’70s. What started as plans for a bed and breakfast outside of Tahoe, however, turned into a 30-year vision of a residential development he says is finally coming to fruition.
Outside the Alpine Meadows parking lot sits the White Wolf property, which Caldwell has called home for the past 30 years. While he regularly hosts film producers who use the site for car commercials and photo shoots that call for a serene mountain landscape, his long held dream has been to build his own neighborhood.
“It’s not about putting money in my pocket, it’s about making something meaningful,” he said.
Calwell submitted plans to Placer County in December 2016. The 275-acre project would place 38 single-family custom homes on the property and six employee housing units with a clubhouse, equestrian facilities, swimming pool, ice skating rink and tennis courts. The project would amount to one house on about 11 acres.
“Being a local we certainly like to keep things as small as possible,” said Caldwell. “My neighbors wanted me to stay with a more residential feel and less commercial.”
Placer County is now in the process of putting together the draft environmental documents for the project.
Currently, there is only one home on the property, where Caldwell and his wife reside. From Alpine Meadows Road the property looks like little more than a steep mountain face scattered with granite boulders.
A quick ride in his snowcat reveals flatter ground, where homes will sit backed into the mountainside. The winding trail will eventually become a paved road, where 4-wheel drive vehicles will be highly recommended in the winter.
THE WHITE WOLF STORY
As a member of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team for six years in the 1970s, and former Alpine Meadows employee, Caldwell has called himself a Tahoe local for decades.
When he and wife, Sue, decided to purchase land, their plans for a small bed and breakfast quickly changed when he ended up with an entire 460-acre parcel of land instead of the intended 5-acres. When he expressed his interest in purchasing the small piece of land from Southern Pacific Land Company, they informed him they could only sell him 144-acre parcel.
Shortly after Placer County advised him that Southern Pacific could only sell him an entire 460-acre parcel. Caldwell bought the land, now known as the White Wolf property, in 1989.
“The original direction went away and when we ended up with the whole piece of property,” he said. “We thought we better take advantage of the space.”
PRIVATE SKI AREA
During the winter season Caldwell transports friends and family, along with a group of guides, via snowcat to enjoy the ski terrain Tahoe is known for. However, a functioning ski lift has been his goal for over 20 years.
Visible from Alpine Meadows Road are chairlift poles climbing up the backside of Squaw Valley’s KT-22 chairlift. The chair was first approved by the county in 2000. The project was soon halted, however, when Bear Creek homeowners sued the county for issuing Caldwell the use permit.
The original plan was to limit the lift to the White Wolf property. With the new project, Caldwell said he plans to complete the lift connecting it to Squaw Valley. A second lift, he said, will transport residents to Alpine Meadows.
Plans for the project come after Placer County’s July approval of the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows base-to-base gondola. The gondola will begin at Squaw Valley, traverse over Caldwell’s property and end at the Alpine Meadows base area. While the gondola may be seen from the White Wolf property it will be hidden from drivers on Alpine Meadow Road.
With deadly wildfires becoming more prominent in California, Caldwell said building fire-proof homes is a primary focus of the project, as well as a learning process.
“Each time you build, you learn a little bit more on how to do it better,” said Caldwell.
One building technique they are looking at is installing glass systems in the windows that place the glass panes farther apart from each other. This will help prevent the panes from exploding when they expand from intense heat, he said.
Garage doors, another weak point on homes, can be equipped with steel plates that cover and protect the door in the event of a fire. Another system will install water pumps onto the flat roofs of homes that will flood the roofs in the event of a threatening fire.
“There’s different techniques that we’re learning as we go through the process,” he said. “I’m sure we have a lot more to learn.”
TOO MUCH DEVELOPMENT?
Development in the area and its effect on the natural landscape has long been a concern of community members and has been met with fierce opposition from environmental groups, including Sierra Watch.
In a comment letter on the project sent to Placer County, Sierra Watch stated the proposed project threatened to “overwhelm existing infrastructure, and have severe and irreversible impacts on the Tahoe Sierra and its natural resources.”
While Caldwell is aware of potential backlash his project could receive he said his neighbors are “excited to see things take place.”
“I’m always aware of preserving the Tahoe area. It’s pretty special to all of us; that’s why we moved here,” he said. “We try to do the best we can, but we know there’s a lot of people trying to come visit.”
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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