New Tahoe Donner ski lodge approved by planning comission

A rendering of the proposed Tahoe Donner downhill ski resort is shown. A development permit for the project was approved by the Town of Truckee Planning Commission at its meeting on Wednesday.
Courtesy photo

TRUCKEE, Calif. — A new downhill ski lodge at Tahoe Donner has moved a step closer to reality.

The Town of Truckee Planning Commission voted in favor of approving a development permit for the proposed three-story, 24,490-square-foot structure at its meeting Wednesday, paving the way for the demolition of the current lodge at the downhill ski area in favor of a new building with easier access to lifts and dedicated indoor ski school space. 

The original building was built in 1971 as a real estate sales office and later converted into a lodge. Tahoe Donner Board of Directors concluded the current lodge doesn’t have enough bathrooms, hallways and stairs are too narrow, and has become functionally obsolete.

“There’s been several remodels over the last 50 years that have now produced a very inefficient layout and has created a Frankenstein building,” said Jon Mitchell, Director of Capital Projects and Facilities for Tahoe Donner. “The demand on the lodge is much different than it was in 1971.”

Plans would be to demolish the existing two-story, 15,838-square-foot lodge, and build the new one on its site. The lodge would include ski school training and offices. Current ski school programming is done outside of the lodge area in a yurt on the ski slope. Plans also include for a 7,880-square-foot dining area on the third floor. Plans for the new lodge would aim to streamline ticket and rental areas, reduce crowding, improve ADA access. The lodge would also be raised so that skiers no longer have to climb a hill to get to a chairlift. No expanded uses or events have been authorized via the project.

Tahoe Donner Board of Directors first approved the project in April, 2022. The project was then brought to the Town of Truckee Planning Commission in June, and continued to Wednesday’s meeting.

With many in the community opposed to the project, the Tahoe Donner Association embarked on its largest community outreach initiative to date. The association held 14 focus groups, meetings, open houses, workshops, and a community survey.

Of 3,053 Tahoe Property owners surveyed, 49% said they were opposed to proceeding with the project, while 45% said they were in favor of the new ski lodge, according to a survey done by consulting firm Props & Measures. There are 6,489 properties in Tahoe Donner with contact information available, according to the survey.

Scale and cost of the $23,419,661 project were majors factor cited in the survey by those opposed to the project. During Wednesday’s meeting, others that live near the downhill area voiced concerns regarding visual impacts of the three-story building, affect on property values, water quality impacts, and a lack of a new conditional use permit.

“We believe that the character of the HOA as a residential area would be harmed by granting a permit for what is essentially a commercial facility,” said Cheryll Cross, of the Tahoe Donner Change group.

Tahoe Donner General Counsel Nira Doherty addressed some of the concerns raised during Wednesday’s planning commission meeting, specifically questions about a use permit and impacts to water quality.

 “Town code requires a development permit as opposed to a use permit here,” she said. “The development permit operates almost identically to a use permit.”

Doherty added that before development can happen, a dewatering plan must be first approved by the town and the Lahontan Regional Water Control Board.

“Through the development of that plan, many of the specifics regarding groundwater will be identified and ultimately approved by the town before we can move forward,” said Doherty.

After roughly two hours of deliberation, the planning commission ultimately voted in favor of the project 3-0.

The Tahoe Donner Association is eyeing spring of next year to begin work on the project.

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