Opinion: Martis Valley West sacrifices Tahoe outdoors for private profit
As an architect, who has lived and worked full time in Carnelian Bay for 37 years, I would like to thank Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery for voting against approving the Martis West development — which exactly opposes all agency goals of promoting “infill,” building within existing developed areas.
In fact, the revised EIR actually deleted the objective of the “county to promote efficient use of land and natural resources and encourage in-fill development,” stating the change was “for clarity.” Clearly, this development is the opposite of all good planning principles.
The proposed Martis West development on top of the ridge above Carnelian Bay would destroy a remote forested area and is miles from roads, utilities or any infrastructure. It’s only close to Northstar’s XC ski trails and fishing pond. However, the ridge is directly adjacent to critical wildlife habitat and corridors, according to the developer’s own 2012 report by Conservation Biology Institute.
The proposed Squaw Valley project, meanwhile, has major problems with scale (a huge indoor water park would be an abomination), but at least it will be built over existing paving for the most part, and directly adjacent to existing development. And the developers have responded to concerns and have somewhat scaled back, and are committed to spending millions on mitigations and restorations.
The developers of Martis West have never offered any changes to their proposal. All the mitigations in their EIR are qualified by statement like “wherever feasible,” and the monies proposed for mitigations are minimal.
Asked about mitigations at a public meeting, the developer pointed to Caltrans plans for improving Highway 267, but had to admit existing funds are NOT guaranteed and are woefully inadequate. Regarding fire safety, they cited U.S. Forest Service thinning programs. For impacts to Lake Tahoe from increased traffic, it was TRPA’s erosion control projects. Note that all of these are public, taxpayer-funded, with nothing provided by the developer, and none that solve any of the problems.
Most importantly, approving Martis West would not save 6,376 acres of open space. The proposal is only to trade 670 acres down-slope to the east of Hwy. 267 for 775 ridge-top acres west of Hwy. 267. The proposed trade only moves development, it does not save anything. More than 5,700 acres east of the highway already cannot be developed. In order to save any acreage, the developer is only proposing allowing the public to BUY the land or a conservation easement on it — price and terms not yet determined.
It is also never mentioned that those 670 acres on the east side currently zoned for development are actually closer to roads and utilities, across from Northstar Drive. Or that there is no market for residential lots down-slope, as there are already thousands of empty residential lots available in Martis Valley. The ridge-top acreage on the west, however, would be highly desirable and worth many, many millions.
The quiet, forested hillside above Carnelian Bay, now enjoyed by visitors and residents for hiking, biking and skiing, will be sacrificed for private profit. Remote, irreplaceable forest, wildlife habitat and watershed will be gone, and we will be left with huge problems for traffic and safety. Martis West on top of the ridge would make huge profits for the developer at the expense of Lake Tahoe, our wildlife and our communities.
Sherry Guzzi is a Tahoe City architect and co-founder of the Sierra Wildlife Coalition.