Zoning ties up Boreal expansion | SierraSun.com

Zoning ties up Boreal expansion

NEVADA COUNTY – A county zoning problem is tying up Boreal ski resort’s plans to expand its lodge near Donner Summit, a hangup the company president describes as frustrating.

Ski resort officials hoped to begin work on the project last summer, said Marshall Lewis, president of Boreal Ridge Corp., which also operates the nearby Soda Springs resort. The company is heading into a second year of delay, Lewis said.

“It is always frustrating dealing with government agencies,” Lewis said.

Plans are to expand the resort lodge from 45,000 to 75,000 square feet, giving it more room for rental operations, children’s programs and the cafeteria.

However, a zone change by Nevada County precludes the project for now.

Lewis stressed that changing market conditions make the expansion imperative.

Skiers are spending more time in lodges than they did in years past. The change results from extended families visiting and from newer, faster chair lifts, allowing skiers to spend more time on the hill and tire themselves out more quickly, Lewis said.

On top of all that, the ski market is flat, and the resort needs to stay competitive, Lewis said.

Boreal and Soda Springs together employ up to 700 people and generate about $10 million a year in sales, he explained.

The zoning problem arose in 1997, when the county placed an interim zoning designation on the Donner Summit area, which largely limited new development until a master plan is developed.

On March 2, supervisors agreed to have county staff work on a proposal that will free both resorts from the interim zoning and allow the lodge expansion.

However, the proposal must return to the Planning Commission and go before the board again, said Interim Planning Director Bob Leggett.

In the best case, Boreal and Soda Springs could be freed from the interim zoning this summer, Leggett said.

Supervisor Sam Dardick, who represents the area, said the county erred in tying up the resorts in the interim zoning but he predicted the error will be rectified.

The county should allow the resorts to expand but require a master plan for new development on Donner Summit, Dardick said.

“We are much more concerned about large-scale future development in the vacant lots,” Dardick said.

Lewis believes county officials are making a good-faith effort to correct the problem, but finds the delay exasperating all the same.

Over the next five years, Lewis also would like to add dorm-style housing for up to 100 employees and double the size of the Soda Springs resort’s 3,000-square-foot lodge.

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