My Turn: TRPA – Put lake clarity, not Homewood Resort, first
February 21, 2008
To the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency: Please, will you drop the Homewood Resort (HMR) project from the Community Enhancement Project (CEP) when you meet on Feb. 27? Allowing this project to proceed as currently proposed is detrimental both to lake clarity and to the other, better CEP projects proposed for Placer County.Before I highlight some of its many problems, let me recognize some of the benefits of the current HMR proposal. The developer JMA is to be applauded for seeking to improve the lifts at Homewood, provide a small neighborhood retail center, reduce the fuel load in the forest and for seeking LEED certification for its project. A hotel/bar/restaurant development on the West Shore will also provide much-needed boost to the local economy. Note that all of these benefits can be achieved outside of the CEP.Lake clarity, strike 1: The developer will be required to complete his BMPs (just like every citizen in the Basin) whether part of the CEP or not. However, to be included in the CEP, he is supposed to provide additional environmental benefits for the lake. A normal application for a hotel and condo project at Homewood would be restricted to 35-foot height limits, as well as parking and density limitations. If approved as part of the CEP, the HMR developer can breach these limits allowing for an extra 40 hotel rooms or 2-bed condos, and permitting the otherwise unacceptable condo development in the South Bowl. Thus being part of the CEP puts $70 million to $80 million straight into the developer’s pocket. So where are the $70 million in environmental projects benefiting lake clarity (over and above the BMPs) that JMA and the TRPA have proposed for Homewood so far? I have heard of nothing. Zip. Nada. So allowing the HMR project in the CEP is a gift of $70 million or more by a public agency to a private developer. This is plain wrong.Lake clarity, strike 2: It gets worse. The current HMR proposal proposes building two multi-story parking lots in stream environment zones (SEZs) one behind the Maritime Museum and the other in the Homewood Creek SEZ. The massive public relations effort by the HMR developer and its paid consultants over the last few months and the TRPA staff scrutiny has failed to point this out. Destroying SEZs this close to the lake shore will definitely negatively affect the lake, and is reason alone for kicking this project out of the CEP.The currently proposed HMR project will also dramatically increase traffic along Highway 89 and lengthen the lines across Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City. This will increase pollution and further reduce lake clarity. Yet another reason to drop this project from the CEP.Strike 3: The Homewood community does not want this project as currently proposed. You don’t need over 250 hotel rooms and 2-bed condos to provide an economic boost. The boost can be achieved with much less.Local homeowners have suggested that a better project proposal would be for a three-storey hotel with maybe only 80-90 rooms, a small neighborhood retail center and some affordable housing for the North Bowl; and maybe 30 single family homes in the South Bowl. This would provide the much needed boost for the West Shore in a way that is more compatible with the existing scale and character of this community, and would avoid encroaching on the SEZs. This smaller scale project can be built outside of the CEP.So once again, to the Governing Board of the TRPA. Will you please drop the Homewood Resort project (HMR) from the CEP when you meet on Wednesday? Please put lake clarity first, give taxpayer grants wisely, and force a better solution for the Homewood community and economy. Once outside the CEP, the HMR developer is still free to submit the project under existing TRPA regulations and the normal EIR/EIS process, just like every other ordinary citizen in the Basin. They have lost none of their rights, so your decision is fair to all.Paul Vatistas is a Tahoe Basin resident, a member of the Pathway 2007 Placer County Place-Based Working Group, and a Director of North Tahoe Citizens Action Alliance.