Opinion: Concerns with Sierra Watch, MAP opposition to Martis Valley West
My name is Ben Polley and I am an insurance broker in the Sacramento Area. I have been providing insurance and consultative services to business in the North Lake Tahoe area since 2005. My family and I have also been property owners in the Tahoe for the last 40 years.
Based on the many years I’ve worked in the insurance industry, one particular part of the job has always been clear — it’s all about assessing risk. When it comes to striking the right balance as it relates to proposed development, the same practice of assessing risk comes into play.
As many people in this community know, the Martis Valley Community Plan was updated in 2003, and it allowed for 1,360 residential units on the parcel of land Sierra Pacific Industries owns. This parcel is located to the east of Hwy 267. Current zoning is in place for this number of residences to be developed in an area that is used year-round for mountain biking, hiking and snowmobiling.
What some may not know, however, is that Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation (MAP)’s executive directors and attorneys negotiated the Martis Valley Opportunity Agreement. This agreement was something they outlined the terms of and signed along with the landowner.
It proposed shifting the zoned, allowable development to the other side of the highway next to Northstar, reducing density by 600 residential units, and permanently protecting the entire East Parcel.
It was something the landowner and the developer agreed to, and to this date, have complied with. One would think that by initiating and signing this agreement, Sierra Watch and MAP believed the Martis Valley West Project was the right plan for Martis Valley. In fact, it provides certainty for conservation and density reduction.
Fast forward to today, and the Martis Valley West Project is slated to be reviewed by the Placer County Board of Supervisors on September 13. Both Sierra Watch and MAP, despite having initiated the terms of the Martis Valley Opportunity Agreement and making the best possible deal for the Martis Valley and future generations, are now opposing the Martis Valley West Project, even though it appears to be in complete conformance with what they had outlined in the agreement.
I understand those employed by these organizations are paid to oppose projects, but I would encourage Sierra Watch, MAP and their supporters to think about this: If the Martis Valley West Project is not approved, the permanent conservation of 25 percent of the land in Martis Valley goes away forever, and it will only be a matter of time until a project is approved on the East Parcel as contemplated in the Martis Valley Community Plan.
Here is a quote taken directly from the about us section of MAP’s Facebook page: “Advocating for open space and smart community planning since 1987, MAP believes that mountain communities must create balance between accommodating new growth and protecting the forests, streams and vistas that enrich our lives and sustain our tourism economy.”
I am a little confused. Isn’t their opposition directly contradicting the mission statement of the organization? It seems to me that the Martis Valley West Project is the one — and only — opportunity for these groups to achieve their coveted conservation legacy in Martis Valley.
If Sierra Watch and MAP don’t honor their side of the agreement they helped put in place, their legacy will be forever known as the “Martis Valley Missed Opportunity.” I hope they can see this and decide to do the right thing.
Ben Polley is an El Dorado Hills, Calif., resident who owns a second home at Lake Tahoe in Zephyr Cove.