Opinion: Martis Valley West would ruin Lake Tahoe as we know it
May 10, 2016
Placer County is ramping up to approve two huge new projects in the Tahoe area, outside the basin: Squaw Valley and Martis Valley West (and in the works for future hearings is the 110-acre Brockway Campground, adjacent to Martis Valley West on Lake Tahoe forestlands).
The ridiculously outsized proposed Squaw Valley development has stolen the media show, and the attention of many prominent environmental groups as well, while the sprawling Martis Valley West project has snuck in under the radar.
The cynical side of me thinks that might have been the plan all along.
Martis Valley West is a proposed 660-acre gated community of 760 luxury homes (plus more than six acres of commercial) on lands currently zoned forest/conservation, located one mile in at the top of SR 267 overlooking Lake Tahoe and Martis Valley.
This is the purest definition of sprawl, and it would place 1,900 new residents on our already overcrowded roadways. Not to mention the adjacent Brockway Campground, which proposes to add another 1,100 people.
Together, the two projects will be about the size of Kings Beach. Think of it — a brand-new town-like community on top of a forested ridgeline with zero existing infrastructure.
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This will, of course, create what even the developer calls "significant and unavoidable" impacts on traffic and air quality, not to mention views of our iconic ridgelines. Additionally, and very importantly, this project, should Placer County approve it (and there's no reason to think they won't approve any project that contributes so significantly to the County coffers), will greatly imperil our community in case of forest fire.
How will you get out when the main road out of town is choked with thousands of new cars? This is, quite simply, a recipe for disaster.
So what is the justification for all this? One is for protection of the Loyalton deer herd migration route (by the Truckee Airport) from the impacts of a potential residential development in Martis Valley on the east side of the highway — a project that is on land already zoned for residential development, but that has never even been applied for.
If you're a developer, the land on the west side of the highway with views of Tahoe is much more valuable — to the tune of hundreds of thousands more per dwelling. So couching your reasons in concern for wildlife is a bit disingenuous, to say the least.
And what of the environmental impacts? The consulting firm who did the Environmental Impact Report is Ascent Environmental, who (guess what?) also did the analyses for Squaw Valley, Homewood and the 2012 TRPA Regional Plan Update.
The MVW report states, in a nutshell, that traffic and other impacts are bad already and this won't add that much more; the animals will just go around this 11 million square feet of land disturbance; the developer will move the Tahoe Rim Trail (and hey, there are plenty of other places for the public to get their recreation anyway); and the tens of thousands of trees lost are just a drop in the bucket.
Clearly, Ascent has never seen a project whose severe environmental impacts they couldn't somehow justify.
And don't forget, also in the same development pipeline are the build-out of Northstar (hundreds of more units from the same developer, Mountainside Partners, formerly East West Partners); Joerger Ranch's 60-acre approved development on SR 267; and Truckee's Railyard development, also approved.
All these projects in Placer County are happening under our area supervisor's (Jennifer Montgomery) watch. The final Environmental Impact Statement for Martis Valley West environmental document just came out on May 4th, and Placer staff has already scheduled a hearing for Thursday, May 12, in Tahoe City in front of the North Tahoe Regional Advisory Committee.
Is one week really enough for any kind of review of a 2,000-plus page document. Clearly not — but Placer is clearly determined to steamroll through all objections.
As residents of this beautiful area, we need to tell Jennifer Montgomery to say no to the Martis Valley West project as it is currently being proposed: Stop the sprawl, downsize the project to a reasonable number of units, get it off the ridge, cluster new development, and schedule hearings with adequate time for review of the supporting documentation.
Do the right thing. Don't be the politician who is only remembered for orchestrating the demise of our beautiful ridgetops, forests and way of life.
Please contact Montgomery and tell her she works for her constituents, not developers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail: 175 Fulweiler Avenue, Auburn, CA 95603.
For more information go to: http://www.savetahoeforests.com
Ann Nichols is a 39-year North Lake Tahoe resident and is president of the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance. Visit http://www.ntpac.com to learn more.