Opinion: Martis Valley West a threat to Tahoe residents, wildlife
As an architect working with the local agencies for 35 years, the more I learn about the huge Martis Valley West development proposed on the ridge above North Lake Tahoe, the more outraged I am that it could even be considered in the Tahoe Basin.
Adding new luxury homes, plus required infrastructure, in what is currently remote, undeveloped forest is exactly the opposite of the supposed main goal of TRPA’s new Regional Plan, which is to concentrate all development within existing urban areas.
And despite what East West Partners’ claims, the amount of development in the basin may not remain equivalent, since trading Tourist Accommodation Units (TAUs) means that one old motel room of a few hundred square feet can equal one new luxury residence many times that size, plus all the new roads and utilities required.
More hotel rooms would actually be moved out of local communities, precisely where approved Community Plans say more are needed, and where infrastructure already exists and would not have to be added.
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Not often noted, Sierra Pacific Industries is proposing to trade only the 670 acres currently zoned for development for 760 acres across Highway 267 to be re-zoned (which includes 112+ acres in the Tahoe basin). The rest of their 6,376 acres already cannot be developed.
But all the 6,376 acres (or a conservation easement) will have to be purchased by the public (i.e. land trusts or conservation organizations) — they are not giving anything away. And they will get premium lake-view lots worth millions of dollars.
It’s my opinion that many or most of these homes on the Tahoe side will be visible from everywhere. Besides obvious scenic degradation, other negative impacts include noise, water and air pollution; night-sky light pollution; and traffic congestion.
As 35-year full-time residents of Carnelian Bay, we walk this forest to the ridge above us daily. This quiet natural area, now enjoyed by visitors and residents alike for hiking, biking, skiing and wildlife-viewing, will be disrupted.
All these impacts will be annoying to local residents and detrimental to local communities, but they will be devastating for local wildlife. The proposed development would not only destroy thousands of trees and degrade watersheds, it would also completely block vital wildlife corridors both north-south (over) and east-west (along) the ridge.
To survive, animals need to be able to move with food resources, which change seasonally and annually. Even the noise of construction, which could go on for 25 years, will disturb, displace and ultimately kill wildlife. Our bear, deer, coyote, osprey, hawks, eagles, and a huge variety of small birds and mammals need this vital habitat, which no mitigation can ever replace.
Martis Valley West plans to make huge profits at the expense of Lake Tahoe, local communities, visitors and our wildlife. Please check facts at http://www.savetahoeforests.com, then write Placer County and TRPA to let them know what you think.
Sherry Guzzi is co-founder of the Tahoe City-based Sierra Wildlife Coalition.
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