Opinion: Placer supes failed at properly scrutinizing Martis Valley West
September 20, 2016
Last Tuesday evening, I had the chance to watch our Placer County Supervisors vote to approve the Martis Valley West project, and I found it to be a sad and disappointing moment.
As Jennifer Montgomery sat in lone dissent, observing that this project does not fit with stated goals to keep new developments near existing developments, the other supervisors expressed confusion about why there was so much objection to this project.
They argued that because so much other land in Martis Valley was being conserved, the opposition to the project is missing the big picture when it comes to land preservation.
While preservation of Martis Valley is welcome and important, this is hardly relevant when discussing a development that would have visual impacts to much of Tahoe due to its location on a high mountain ridgeline that defines much of North Tahoe's scenery.
The developers proposing this project have correctly identified an opportunity to create valuable homesites by developing up to the edge of an undeveloped ridge with views of Tahoe.
While this development will not technically sit in the Tahoe Basin, it does encroach upon it, and will turn one of Tahoe's ridges into a first-of-its-kind high-dollar neighborhood.
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Laws were written to limit development in the Tahoe basin for good reason. This development is testing the limits of these laws by attempting to build into the basin from the outside.
Once built, new home-owners will be able to drive their cars to the top of the Tahoe ridgeline, park in their heated garages, and soak in lake views that are currently reserved for Tahoe Rim Trail hikers.
This proposal is something new that deserves more scrutiny. Having been on nearly every peak surrounding Tahoe, I can think of no ridges that define the basin skyline with homesites on them.
In the nighttime sky, there are no lights visible from homes in neighborhoods on the high ridgelines. This would be new, unusual, and of enormous importance in terms of what might be allowed for future proposals.
The preservation of Martis Valley is being used as a distraction from an attempt to set a new development precedent that has not previously been permitted, and it seems, simply, wrong for Tahoe.
While the supervisors attempted to address concerns about traffic, public safety, density and land conservation as it relates to development in Martis Valley, none of the supervisors addressed the obviously questionable precedent being set by allowing development on one of Tahoe's undeveloped mountain ridges.
At one point, there even seemed to be confusion regarding whether or not the development was on or near the ridgeline. In the name of conservation, the developers are gladly giving up Martis Valley land and a campground site to do something that was previously not possible — creating lake views where they do not currently exist on on the edge of the protected basin.
The legality of this impact to Tahoe is questionable, and that is the fine but obvious point the supervisors did not address last week.
Rick Papaleo is a Kings Beach resident.
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