My Turn: Proposed Squaw development should be scaled down
December 13, 2012
TAHOE CITY, Calif. – I have lived at North Tahoe for more than 50 years. My business career was in the retail service industry. Over the course of the years my family has acquired a few pieces of commercial property in three different North Tahoe communities. Because of my background, I am a strong proponent for the rights of property owners to develop their property as they see fit.
With the intensive cost of building and maintaining world class ski and snowboard resorts for the enjoyment of all of us, we must recognize the need for these ski area operators to provide villages that enhance the visitor experience, including providing lodging and commercial establishments for their guests.
That being said, Tahoe is a place where residents and tourists alike have been drawn to for its incredible natural beauty and environmental attributes. For the most part over the years, residents, developers, and governmental agencies have been careful to maintain the natural beauty and environmental assets this region possesses as the area has grown.
As we plan for the future and our area’s likely continued growth, it is imperative that we understand why we live here, why visitors come here, and how valuable our environmental resources are, while maintaining a viable economy for all the communities in the Tahoe region.
Those in charge of planning and development must also be mindful of maintaining a balance between the new ski area villages and the local communities that have grown up in the region over the past century to serve residents and visitors. Retaining the unspoiled environment while maintaining economic sustainability for these communities is critical as well.
I have not read the Notice of Preparation for the proposed development of the Village at Squaw Valley. I have read a summary of the NOP and seen graphic renditions of what is proposed. The scope of the project is overwhelming. I fear for the potential environmental damage to Squaw Valley.
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I have doubts whether the infrastructure in place can support this level of development. I have concerns about the economic sustainability and the density of the proposed development. I worry about the balance between this development and maintaining the viability of our other local communities.
While I understand the KSL management team is convinced this plan is viable and should move forward, I am reminded of similar beliefs from others in their attempts to develop Squaw Valley in the past, not only by the ski area itself many times in its sixty year history, but also by Mainline Corporation in the 1970s and Intrawest in the 1990s. We do not want to develop what may turn out to be an urban ghetto at the base of the ski area while we have destroyed the environment and its breathtaking beauty.
For all the aforementioned reasons, and because deep down I also support the right of property owners to be able to develop their property, I believe it would be advantageous for the various stakeholders including the developers, Placer County government officials, Squaw Valley property owners, and other regional leaders to convene and work together to come up with a framework for a much scaled down project that maintains the environment and can be implemented in phases as economic targets are attained.
Roger Kahn is a Tahoe City resident.