‘More gruel please’ (Opinion)
In February, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency impressively received 314 letters of concern regarding JMA’s “members-only” Homewood Resort model. A model they are trying to quietly slip through our agencies. JMA’s Art Chapman responded with a “folksy” form letter, tossing tiny crumbs as though we’re pitiful characters in a Dickens novel; dangling craft fairs and farmers markets. And two whole ski days a month for locals. To which I can’t help sarcastically ask, “Pardon me, sir, but may I have some more gruel?”
In his letter, Chapman also claims the Ikon pass did them in. I cry foul. Instead of investing in proper marketing and infrastructure, JMA purchased West Shore Café property in 2010 for $7.9 million and the adjacent lot in 2014 for $2.25 million. In 2016, JMA purchased High and Dry Marina land parcels for $4.39 million. These costs don’t include the actual price of the businesses. So, they invested well above $15 million in businesses that are irrelevant to a ski resort and not part of the 2011 Master Plan. And well before the 2018/2019 season introduction of the Ikon pass. One can’t help but deduce JMA was laying the groundwork for a private ski and lake resort back then.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s suspend disbelief and take Chapman’s words for face value. These purchasing decisions were made while the ski resort lay in decay, with electrical fires in the South Lodge, an aging Ellis Chair that left people suspended for three-plus hours in 20 degree weather, and black mold that grew in the North Lodge Guest Services department. The best one can say is JMA made some poor speculative purchases and were negligent at running a ski resort. But the community shouldn’t pay the price for poor decisions and management.
The reality is, our community rallied behind the approval of the original 2011 Master Plan; it clearly states Homewood Ski Resort must offer equal public access (to ski) and must adhere to Old Tahoe architecture. The community rallied to avoid the country club concept JMA is now peddling. It does little (if anything) to help our local businesses, culture, or community. A better option is an open space preserve. Or, a concept like Marshall Mountain in Missoula, preserved by a small group of philanthropists, Izzy Dog LLC, for public use. Or the volunteer-run Ascutney ski resort in Vermont, recently written up in the New York Times.
What’s more, shouldn’t JMA’s investors be concerned? Or at least scratching their heads? Mark Scheinberg, CEO of Mohari Hospitality, and Discovery Land Company might want to ask themselves if they really want to back a project not approved by local agencies and held in disdain by an entire community. Maybe fold this investment into your philanthropic portfolio instead? Take a cue from Marshall Mountain’s Izzy Dog LLC. Do something for the greater good and leave a lasting legacy.
To everyone else, it’s not too late. Readers, demand that Placer County and TRPA require JMA resubmit their new plans for new review. Otherwise, every developer, and the community at large, has just been shown the playbook for how to approve a private project under the guise of “public use.”
Visit http://www.keephomewoodpublic.com to learn where to write and how to get involved.
Renee Koijane has been a Homewood resident for 22 years
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