The renaissance: Squaw Valley looks to expand its village, amenities | SierraSun.com

The renaissance: Squaw Valley looks to expand its village, amenities

Colleen Moore
Special to the Sun

Courtesy Placer County Big changes could be in the works for the Village at Squaw Valley and its surroundings.

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. and#8212; Squaw Valley has recently released a plan to develop its village and neighboring areas, expanding the base area to cover what is now mostly a parking lot.

Squaw Valley’s website, which has dubbed the expansion and#8220;Squaw Renaissance,and#8221; outlines the 20-year project, changing approximately 107 acres of parking space into a pedestrian-focused village, adding an assortment of amenities to cement Squaw Valley as a world-wide destination resort.

and#8220;The objective of the village development is two-fold,and#8221; said Chevis Hosea, the senior vice president of development for Squaw Valley Real Estate. and#8220;One is to provide the bed base that the resort needs for financial stability. Secondly, in addition to the great mountains we have, (we want to) offer great non-ski amenities.and#8221;

The expansion would add 1,275 fractional ownership units, on top of the 1,664 units in the current village, in the form of hotel rooms, condos and timeshares. This equates to a total of 3,187 bedrooms.

and#8220;We need to offer a better destination ski experience,and#8221; said Hosea, adding that the expansion will give Squaw the and#8220;critical mass of bed base for international financial stability and to compete with all the other great alpine ski resorts in the world.and#8221;

The four-phase development and#8212; which, if approved, would take place over the next 12 to 15 years and#8212; is still in its early stages. Alex Fisch, a developer from Placer County, explained that a project of this magnitude has a 18- to 24-month-long review process, before any construction can be considered.

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Within the next few weeks, a notice of preparation on an environmental impact report will be released, said Robert Miller, who works in the Placer County Public Information Office, followed by numerous public meetings, including at least one before the Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Council and before the Placer County Planning Department.

and#8220;They have a ways to go, and there are some public meetings that are going to happen where people can offer comments,and#8221; Miller said. and#8220;Everyone will have an opportunity for public comment.and#8221;

The project’s progression is about six months old now, Fisch said. Everything from the ability to have a sustainable water supply, to transportation and air quality impacts to environmental effects to Squaw Creek and more will be looked at and analyzed as part of the review process, he added.

Certain issues, such as finding a source for water, could take awhile to solve, said Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, thus potentially delaying the review process and beginning of construction.

and#8220;Probably the shortest time frame achievable would be two years. Things could take substantially longer than that,and#8221; Montgomery said. and#8220;It’s really hard to say and#8212; I’ve seen projects like this take five years or longer (to be approved). It frankly (depends) on how well they work with the community and the county.and#8221;

While Hosea said the expansion’s main focus is the village and increasing bed mass, there are plans for elaborate amenities, including an aquatic center, entertainment center and indoor zip lines. The aquatic center features plans for a lazy river, even potentially including stimulated surfing.

and#8220;(We want to) not only support the ski and riding experience, but to give you something else to do,and#8221; Hosea explained. and#8220;The apres ski (activities) will help provide substantial stability for the resort throughout the summer and shoulder seasons.and#8221;

According to the proposal, village expansion will be focused in three main zones: village core, village neighborhoods and mountain neighborhoods. The village core, or the center of the resort, will feature the highest density in the most active zone. The village neighborhoods, one step away from the core, will feature more accommodations and recreation options, while the mountain neighborhoods will have small-scale neighborhoods.

and#8220;We are intent to develop a village. The need, or void, of a village component here at the base of Squaw (has been noticed),and#8221; Hosea said. and#8220;(It’s) one of the key components of repositioning Squaw Valley internationally. The opportunity has been there for years, even well before our acquisition.and#8221;

Since Squaw Valley Road is a designated scenic roadway, as well as Squaw Valley being a scenic area, the plan must feature buildings and a color scheme that do not take away from the valley’s natural beauty, according to the county. In other words, the buildings cannot be more than a certain height, and they must have neutral colors.

While the project is in its early stages, potential implications have to be thought about now, said Placer County Supervisor, Jennifer Montgomery.

and#8220;From my perspective, there are some potentially very good things that could come out of it,and#8221; she said.

She continued, adding that protecting Squaw Creek is a main concern for her.

and#8220;Right now, we have the village, which is up to about five stories and surrounded by a sea of asphalt. A lot of that water runs off into Squaw Creek and contaminates Squaw Creek,and#8221; she said. and#8220;The county is under the direction from the water board to make that creek healthy again. Potentially, there could be some real benefits to Squaw Creek.

and#8220;On the flip side, if not a good proposal is brought forward … it could be really bad for the creek.and#8221;

Since the project is in such infant stages, Montgomery said it is hard to determine now what’s going to be positive and what’s going to be negative.

As county supervisor, Montgomery is responsible for keeping an eye on the proposal, and to bring that information to various community meetings. At the beginning of each month, there is a presentation at the Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Council, which the public is invited to attend to hear status updates.

and#8220;Sometimes people don’t really understand they have a voice early on (in a project),and#8221; Montgomery said. and#8220;If a developer comes to a development meeting, and they hear consistently from the public, the smart developer will look at that and think and#8216;Hmm, I should rethink that.’ The community has the opportunity to engage early on in an informal stage.and#8221;

Later in the process, when resident comments are included in the official record, there is a process that must be followed, as written comments usually are allowed during a 60- to 90-day period after a draft environmental being released.

and#8220;We’ll have a lot of input from the public and (will) do our best to try and address that,and#8221; Hosea said.