Northstar homeowners sue over employee housing project | SierraSun.com

Northstar homeowners sue over employee housing project

Charles Levinson, Sierra sun

Northstar-at-Tahoe homeowners filed suit Monday to stop development of the 380-bed employee housing project approved last month by the Placer County Board of Supervisors.

The suit would force East West Partners to perform a full-blown environmental impact report, as opposed to the more cursory negative declaration that was approved by the county.

Environmentalists have opposed the project from the beginning, citing poor location for an affordable housing complex, and a piecemeal planning approach that fails to take future development into account.

“The lawsuit is really about ensuring that any development be done with the proper planning process,” said Bay Area resident and Northstar second homeowner Sean Dowdall, who filed the lawsuit along with a second party. “It gives us a chance to sit across the table from the developers and talk about what our objectives are.”

Dowdall, head of a recently-formed organization called the Association for Sensible Development at Northstar (ASDAN), said East West’s employee housing project is “a ruse for massive over-development at Northstar.” The project, which also includes a second access road to the resort, would be a gateway to future development, contends Dowdall.

East West counters that the road was mandated by the Truckee Fire Department and was not in their original plans. It would be gated and only for use by residents. Were the road to be opened to the public at a later date, further impact studies would have to be conducted.

Needless to say, East West Partners and affordable housing advocates are not pleased with the lawsuit, which will likely delay the project a year. East West had been praised by affordable housing advocates for actually building employee housing, as opposed to paying affordable housing mitigation fees to the county.

“The thing that’s unfortunate about this is that we’re trying to solve a housing problem for people who live here and this lawsuit was filed by people who don’t live here and don’t have the same problems as residents and employees here,” said East West managing partner Roger Lessman.

Jim Porter, counsel for East West, said he expects a decision on the lawsuit in approximately six months. Porter said he expects the courts to be influenced by the fact that it is an affordable housing project.