My Turn: Fighting Foster-Syme needs funding
On Saturday, April 28, the Serene Lakes Property Owner’s Association, or SLPOA, held a special meeting to discuss the proposed development of the Serene Lakes area. Approximately 200 residents attended.
Cliff Busby, the chairman, gave a brief explanation of the meeting: That it was to bring the community up to date on the proposed development, get consensus from its members, and put together a plan to move forward.
Board members Julie Africa and Sharon Ruffner gave a brief presentation on the results of a recent survey sent out to the property owners of Serene Lakes in regards to the proposed Foster-Syme development plans. The two most important items that tied for first place with 92 percent of the respondents saying they were issues of importance were: The impact of the development on the lakes, and the problem of increased traffic. Coming in at a close second (85 percent) was concern about the water supply for the new development.
Of least importance were: a portal to Sugar Bowl, need for shopping and the profitability of Royal Gorge. Of the hundreds of responses, only two were in favor of the proposed development.
A local resident familiar with environmental planning gave a presentation on the California Environmental Quality Act process. The resident, who gave a first name of Mike, explained that after the EIR was completed there would be a 30-day public-input period and that would be the property owners’ chance to voice their concerns.
He also said any concerns voiced would, by law, have to be addressed by the developers. And, whatever was to be approved would have to be built to the standards laid out.
But, they do not necessarily have to do everything they said they were going to do. Various improvements could be omitted once they’ve gotten approval, so don’t let them snow you with fluff.
After that, the podium was open to questions and comments by the residents. Some of those comments were:
“I’ve been on the development side. What we need to do as residents to fight this thing is throw money at it. If our attorneys and consultants are better or equal to theirs, we have a chance, and that takes money. Otherwise, they’ll roll right over us.”
“When John Slouber tried to develop the ‘Olympic Village’ in the same spot Foster-Syme wants to develop Ski Camp, I talked to the hydrological engineer. He said there was no way they could put a village there because of the pollution it would cause both in the Serene Lakes and in the North Fork of the American River.”
“Their proposed Ski Camp will no doubt cause flooding around the lake.”
“There will be erosion, pollution and sedimentation in the lakes from Ski Camp. In time the lakes will fill up with sediment. Since Foster-Syme owns the lake bottoms, at that point they can plant grass and have their golf course.”
“I retired here for the peace and quiet. I don’t want traffic and condos.”
“Heaven forbid there’s ever a firestorm here like the one in the Oakland hills; but if there were and in a forest area like this it’s very possible, there’d be no easy way out with only one egress.”
“Remember, timeshares, which is what Foster-Syme is planning, not condos, are a hotel community. People with no real ties here will be visiting every weekend. I hate to say this, but there’s a good possibility of increased crime. Correction, there’s no crime here now; it will bring in crime, period.”
“Remember this: Foster-Syme wants to put in a Ski Camp but currently, they do not have any development rights to do so.”
John with the Mountain Area Preservation Fund gave a short talk on their strategy, which is to negotiate with Foster-Syme to reduce the scope of the project. The general opinion of that from the audience was that was exactly what Foster-Syme wanted. No doubt they’d built in a “fudge factor” so when the scope’s reduced by negotiation, they would be exactly where they wanted to be.
Tom at Sierra Watch gave a short talk, indicating that the entire project needed to be stopped. Again, he brought up the importance of money and people. And, he reminded everyone, “Just because Foster-Syme proposes something doesn’t mean its going to happen.”
Bill Oudegeest, the president of the owners association, finished up by saying that development was inevitable but that what Foster-Syme proposed was way too much. “There should be no condos, no hotel and no ski lifts. Foster touts itself as being ‘green,’ but they’re really ‘brown.'” He went on and asked for donations to fight the development, explaining that one Serene Lakes couple had promised to match any donations received.
It was obviously a successful grassroots meeting of the local property owners. There was a lot of energy against the development and lots of good ideas exchanged. If I was Foster or Syme, I’d be worried about my investment.
John Palmer is a full-time Serene Lakes resident.
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