Guest Column: Time to get involved with Martis West project | SierraSun.com

Guest Column: Time to get involved with Martis West project

Ed Gurowitz

The proposed development near Northstar called “Martis West” is as complex as it is troubling. The complexity of the issues —environmental, social, and economic to name a few — is such that I will not attempt to do them justice in a 700-word column.

Rather, I’m writing this column at the urging of a number of people in the Incline Village community to urge those of us who live on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe to look into it and make our voices heard, regardless of our position.

It would be easy, given the name of the project, to make the mistake of thinking that it does not affect us and is not in the Tahoe Basin – actually the proposed development is both outside the basin on the Truckee side of the Tahoe Rim, and inside the basin on top of the ridge right on the Rim Trail.

If you’re having trouble picturing this, think of driving north on Route 267, and look to your left — first you’ll see the ski runs of Northstar, and then imagine a major development on the ridge to the North of the runs.

This being Tahoe, rumors abound. I’ve heard that TRPA is in favor of the development and that the League to Save Lake Tahoe favors it as well. I reached out to both TRPA and the League and was told, on the record and in no uncertain terms, that TRPA has not taken a position on the matter.

Adam Lewandowski, Long Range Planning Manager at TRPA said, “we’re not saying it will have significant impacts, or that it will have significant benefits. It just has the potential for both impacts and benefits and we’re gathering additional information on both.” Lewandowski also said:

“Based on the initial proposal, TRPA staff believes that the plan could result in significant impacts, which is why we’re requiring an EIS. It’s possible that the proposal could result in scenic degradation if new development is visible on the ridge, or potential impacts to the existing recreational experience in the area, and we’re unsure of the proposal’s effect on traffic and Vehicle Miles Travelled without a detailed study.

“So, we’re reviewing the plan now and developing a detailed EIS to determine the likely effects of the plan. However, we also realize that the plan has the potential for some significant benefits, such as preserving over 6,000 acres of developable land just outside the basin and restoring existing development within the basin, which would be a requirement of the plan.”

I also reached out to the League for comment and heard the following from Executive Director Darcie Goodman-Collins:

“At this point, the League to Save Lake Tahoe cannot support the proposed Martis Valley West Parcel Area Plan within the Tahoe Basin. As currently written, there are no clear environmental benefits to the Basin. We are supportive of the general overall Martis Valley Opportunity which includes an important associated Conservation Component in the Martis Valley. This is inconsistent with the Area Plan process as written in the Regional Plan Update.”

The TRPA Advisory Planning Commission (APC) has had the opportunity to discuss this proposed development as a stakeholder group to develop a broadly supported set of recommendations on how to reform TRPA’s residential allocation distribution system.

They held their first public discussion in April, and the minutes of that discussion — available through this URL: tinyurl.com/ksk8n9u — are worth reading.

Reservations were expressed by various groups about the issue of trading off land outside the Basin for development inside, and other serious concerns.

Based on my study of it so far, there is very little doubt in my mind that this development, as presently proposed, would have a significant impact on the North Shore.

Traffic is the first thing that comes to mind. Route 267 can be busy as it is, and the proposed development of 600 or so residential units cannot help but add to that.

With regard to scenic values, the trees on the ridge would be replaced by buildings among the trees — that’s a very different scenic proposition. I’ll leave the environmental analysis to the experts, but they will need to be considered, not as matters of opinion, but based on sound factual analysis.

Again, my layman’s mind cannot imagine it would not be significant.

My point is this: We on the North Shore will get involved or we won’t. If we don’t this will be one more battle between developers and self-appointed “community representatives,” whatever their agendas, refereed by TRPA.

Either way, we’ll get what we get, but we have a choice between passive griping and active involvement. I like the latter option better.

Incline Village resident Ed Gurowitz, Ph.D, is a business consultant and an executive coach who served as Chief Operating Officer of TRPA from July 2011 to June 2012.