Guest Column: Trading Tahoe forest lands for McMansions on the hill
July 27, 2014
I attended the July 17th public workshop hosted by Placer County in Kings Beach regarding the Martis Valley West proposal submitted by Sierra Pacific Industries and East West Partners.
Although in its preliminary stages, this project proposes a gargantuan new development on current forest lands between the North Shore and Northstar, including 112 acres within the Tahoe Basin (off Highway 267 on the Brockway summit). This project would include hundreds of new luxury homes in a gated community, timeshares and other "tourist accommodation units," and retail stores. This will greatly increase the population density in this area, and will also, of course, greatly increase traffic, crowding and pollution. Additionally, more than 700 acres of forest and wildlife habitat will be gone forever.
It is not clear to me where the demand or need for this exists. We have all experienced — and continue to experience — the negative effects of the economic recession, and that is often used as the rationale for bringing large numbers of new people and business to our area. But that is short-term thinking: In the short term, the developer reaps huge profits, governing entities collect large fees, and local businesses are glad of the extra customers.
But the long-term effects that come along with those benefits are severe and irreversible, and will continue to place significant additional stress on our fragile and already overburdened area. And you'd better believe this is only the first project of this size that's being presented: now that the TRPA has opened the doors to big development in their latest Regional Plan, the entire Tahoe basin (and all surrounding areas) is fair game.
I don't pretend to be any kind of expert on the technical side of environmental management, but it doesn't take an expert to see what kind of damage this size project is going to do. And camouflaging that damage with terms like "smart growth" (as the TRPA does) is misleading and inaccurate. This area doesn't need growth at this scale, "smart" or otherwise — it needs its governing bodies to act as responsible stewards looking after its long-term health, not to walk hand in hand with big development to create more and bigger tracts and profits.
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Additionally, the TRPA has said its focus is moving development (new or existing) into central locations, or "town centers." I can't think of a town center that is near the Brockway summit, can you? Given this philosophy, it's not hard to imagine that we will someday be living in perpetual gridlock next to a dead lake.
We, the residents, visitors, and homeowners of this area, need to let Placer County and the TRPA know that this is not acceptable. We already have one Miami Beach. Let's not create another one in or near the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Public comment on the project's draft plan is being accepted until Friday. Aug. 1. Email comments to Maywan Krach, of Placer County, at email@example.com.
Coral Amende is an Incline Village resident.