Martis Valley plan dispute continues with four appeals
While a judge awarded victory to environmental groups battling Placer County’s Martis Valley Community Plan in May, the dispute over development in the valley will continue in the courts under four appeals that have been filed over the decision.
Three Martis Valley property owners and Placer County have filed appeals over a judge’s ruling that said approval of the blueprint that allowed more than 6,000 new homes in the valley was illegal.
The property owner appellants are East West Partners, the developer of Northstar Village and Northstar Highlands; DMB Highlands group, the owner of the Siller Ranch project; and Sierra Pacific Industries, the largest property owner in the valley, with holdings of more than 7,000 acres.
Opening briefs in the appeal are due by Dec. 22, said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch. Counter briefs, to be filed by the conservation groups, will respond the initial appeal brief filings. A hearing, by a panel of three judges, is expected in six months, said Mooers.
East West Partners’ appeal was a surprise since the company, and its partner Booth Creek Resorts, negotiated a deal with conservation groups this year. The deal allowed East West’s Martis Valley projects to be exempted from the lawsuit decision in exchange for monetary contributions for land conservation and a large conservation easement on Northstar land.
Roger Lessman, who oversees East West Partners’ Tahoe operations, said his company did not want to appeal, but made the decision to do so in order to be a part of the appeal hearings and any future negotiations.
“We were not the first to appeal…” Lessman said. “We had no intention of appealing.”
East West filed the short appeal in order to protect its interests if a settlement is reached, Lessman said.
“If there is an appeal, if you want to be in the room while the discussions are ongoing, you have to be a part of the legal procedure,” he said.
Mooers, who heads the conservation group Sierra Watch, which spearheaded the Martis Valley campaign, said he doesn’t expect a decision on the appeals until later next year.
“We’re working on the defense of our Martis Valley Community Plan victory,” Mooers said. “That will probably be a long slog through next year.”
Conservation groups are still talking with property owners in the valley about compromises that could allow a settlement in the lawsuit, which has stopped any development not exempted from the judge’s decision.
Mooers said discussions are ongoing, particularly with DMB Highlands group, the owners of the Siller Ranch project.
Sierra Watch has already come to agreements with the Northstar-at-Tahoe and Eaglewood developments.
Meanwhile, conservation groups are keeping mum on whether they have made headway toward acquiring property that they have termed “priority conservation land” in the Martis Valley.
Those properties are located on the eastern side of Highway 267 and include the Sierra Pacific Industries land and property east of the Truckee Tahoe Airport known as Waddel Ranch.
Mooers said a victory for his organization over the four appeals will help the conservationists’ case for protecting the land they are targeting in the Martis Valley.
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