Opinion: Importance of community voice with Squaw Valley development | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Importance of community voice with Squaw Valley development

A little over two years ago, the group Friends of Squaw Valley was formed in response to the gargantuan resort development proposal by KSL Capital Partners, a Denver-based private equity firm, which had just purchased the Squaw Valley ski area and base village.

Their company, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, created Squaw Valley Real Estate LLC to direct the village entitlement process.

The initial plan called for constructing 1,300 units, 12-story buildings and a Disney-esque indoor water park, as well as destroying Olympic heritage buildings, and forcing day-skiers to remote parking lots.

SVRE has since changed its proposal several times. I think the downsizing was in no small part due to that community voice of FoSV and others.

Last year, I characterized the struggle between the developer and the community as “seeking Goldilocks” to find the right balance of scale and impacts to achieve a “just right” village.

That public process is still under way. The Squaw Valley Public Service District has conducted six separate analyses of how their operations for water, sewer, fire and EMS will be impacted.

The Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Council has held several meetings with SVRE presenting various elements of their plan. The SV Design Review Committee has begun discussion of design layout, mass, heights and scale.

These public meetings are currently the community’s only opportunity to express concern or respond to the developer’s proposal.

The “latest” version of the planned development, the revised Specific Plan, was released last October. It can be found on the Placer County website.

A very recent example of the power of the community’s voice played out at the last SVPSD meeting. Several residents expressed alarm about what might be placed on “Lot 27,” a parcel south of the main road, between the stables and the Meadows condominiums.

The possibility of placing a fire/EMS response station in the wetlands of the meadow and blocking views in that scenic corridor horrified locals. After heated debate, SVRE removed that site from development consideration.

On Sunday, Dec. 28, at 4 p.m., FoSV will hold a community forum to further discuss the Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan. Discussion will be primarily focused on the design guidelines of Appendix B.

In about two months, the draft Environmental Impact Report will be unveiled and the public will have another opportunity to give critical feedback on the proposed project.

Public comment is the only way to preserve the legacy of Squaw Valley and create the village that would make Goldilocks (and our children) proud.

Remember: “Qui tacet consentit” — silence gives consent.

Ed Heneveld is chairman of the Friends of Squaw Valley and a 36-year resident of Squaw Valley.