Opinion: Setting the record straight regarding Martis Valley
Special to the Sun-Bonanza
We’re writing to clear up a major misconception about Martis Valley. In a recent opinion piece, “What lies ahead for Martis Valley West Project?”, Martis Valley West development proponents imply that the “Martis Valley Opportunity” and their “Martis Valley West Project” are the same thing. They are not.
First, we should apologize upfront that this stuff gets a little complicated. A lot of our local development issues are pretty clear − Truckee should not approve more sprawl; Tahoe does not need a massive indoor water park … an explanation of what’s happening on the SPI property in Martis Valley, however, requires a more detailed explanation.
Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) owns 7,568 acres of Martis Valley land, extending from the Waddle Ranch Preserve, up the slopes of Martis Peak, and across Highway 267 toward Northstar.
Most of the property (6,376 acres) is on the ‘East Side’ of Highway 267; 1,192 acres are on the “West Side” — and a small portion (about 140 acres) of the West Side falls in the Tahoe Basin.
In 2013, Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation reached an agreement, the Martis Valley Opportunity Agreement, with SPI and developers East West Partners to permanently protect most of that land — 6,700 acres — including the entire east side, known as the Martis Peak property.
Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation remain committed to securing lasting conservation in Martis Valley and the greater Tahoe Region. And we continue to support implementation of the Martis Valley Opportunity Agreement (MVOA) as established in 2013.
The MVOA called for a shift in land use designations for the SPI property in Martis Valley and the Tahoe Basin, reducing and swapping designations for potential development from the east side of Highway 267 to the west side.
During discussions that led to the MVOA, we pursued the possibility of agreeing on a fixed blueprint for specific development entitlements. But it was clear that no such agreement could be reached, so all parties agreed to focus on a more general, and less binding, initial planning outcome: general plan designations.
New designations would provide the first step in a sequential process, with more specific development plans to follow — after the designations had been approved by Placer County.
The two development projects proposed for the property, however, chart a different course. These projects far exceed what was agreed to in 2013, and the differences lie in both the scale of proposed development and in the depth of entitlements that they seek.
In terms of the scale of development, the MVOA foresaw designations for a potential maximum of 760 units for the property.
The Martis Valley West and Brockway Campground proposals, however, call for much more: entitlements that would total more than 1,300 units and sites.
In terms of entitlements, the MVOA did not call for the granting of development rights. The two current development proposals, however, do.
The MVOA called for a swap of land use “designations” that would trigger a conservation easement on, and permanent protection for, the East Side of the SPI property.
Designations, as called for in the MVOA, are not entitlements; they do not establish development rights. The applications for both the Martis Valley West parcel and Brockway Campground projects, however, ask for a deep set of entitlements for each project — of far greater specificity than the agreed-upon “swap” of designations agreed to 2013.
So, while both Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation continue to support the MVOA, both organizations oppose the “Brockway Campground” project, proposed for the Tahoe portion of the SPI property.
And neither organization has agreed to support any specific development proposals for the Martis Valley West portion of the property. Both organizations will scrutinize the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Report for the project.
Over time, the individual agreements and the planning terminology won’t really matter. But the results — what gets protected, what gets developed — will.
Tom Mooers is Executive Director of Sierra Watch, and Alexis Ollar is Executive Director of Mountain Area Preservation. Visit sierrawatch.org or mountainareapreservation.org to learn more.