The arrogance of the Homewood deal
Like almost everyone else the aborted land sale of the Homewood Ski Resort caught me flat footed. This is another case of behind-closed-doors negotiations in which some project becomes cast in concrete while developers, politicians, stakeholders and bureaucrats decide what is best for the impacted public. Unfortunately, because of the secrecy, little valid information is available for the public to make realistic appraisals. Based on my many years experience, I am sure that David Whitneys article in the Sacramento Bee is not 100 percent accurate and at this stage we must read between the lines to try to understand the realities of the situation.From what I can read and try to understand, the public is between a rock and a hard place. If the sale to the Forest Service had gone through (and it still may in 2008 or later), Mr. Yurosek would have sold much of his land to the Forest Service, but he would have leased the higher elevation property back for the ski resort operation. He would retain ownership of the lake-level property in order to develop, along with JMA Ventures (developer of Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco) some sort of a commercial enterprise, the details of which were not revealed by Mr. Whitney. Although this concept appears to save the ski resort, it presents the possibility of a commercial development a la the Village at Squaw that is out of scale physically, socially, economically and environmentally with Homewood, the West Shore and North Lake Tahoe. Of course, there is also the threat that if the ski resort would fail financially, the Forest Service would not hesitate to turn the property over to developers.The alternative to the sale to the Forest Service, which was headed off (or postponed) by Congressman Doolittle appears equally inappropriate for the West Shore. Although I have seen nothing from the Congressmans office or from Supervisor Kranz, they appear quite willing, if not anxious, to permit Mr. Yurosek to commercially develop (with JMA Ventures) the lower elevations, to sell off other portions for exclusive residential developments and, presumably, abandon the ski resort. Apparently Placer County is a party to these shenanigans, as Whitney reports the County has certified 23 separate lots for high-end residents. This concept, in my opinion, is not in the best interests of the community.Of course, there may be other alternatives in the minds of the stakeholders and bureaucrats involved, and my assessments may be off. Obviously, there is a lot more vital information to be revealed before the public can understand the total impact of either alternative. Among the unanswered questions are a) Why must Mr. Yurisek sell the property to the Forest Service in order to kept the ski resort economically viable? b) Why is Placer County so anxious to transfer the tax basis of the property from the ski resort to commercial and residential developments? and c) If the commercial center and the ski resort are both retained, where will the clientele park?Regardless of the resolution of these proposed developments at some time in the future, I am afraid that the residents of Homewood, the West Shore and North Lake Tahoe are in a no-win situation. It is indeed sad that a few are willing to give arrogance, greed and avarice higher priorities than the environment of the Lake Tahoe Basin, as well as the social well-being and quality of life of the residents. Mike Hawkins is a retired environmental engineer and 15-year resident of Tahoe City.
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