The crazy world that’s in store for Lake Tahoe development |

The crazy world that’s in store for Lake Tahoe development

Kevin MacMillan

It looks as if 2015 is shaping up to be one of the most significant years in the history of Truckee-Tahoe.

As we meander through the holidays and into a new year, all-too-important reports are expected to be released for a slew of major proposed projects that, if approved, will no doubt change the landscape of our backyards in the Sierra Nevada for years to come.

At last count, here’s a taste of what to expect:

Canyon Springs: In the latest version of this oft-bemoaned development, a total of 185 lots are proposed to be built in phases on approximately 284 acres (176.17 acres of that would be open space) near Glenshire. A Final Environmental Impact Report could be ready by January.

Squaw Valley: Easily the most controversial of the region’s projects is the famed ski resort’s village expansion, which calls for the development of up to 1,493 bedrooms, 850 lodging units and a 90,000-square-foot Mountain Adventure Camp recreation facility across 85 acres. A Draft Environmental Impact Report is expected to be circulated for public review in early 2015.

Incorporate Olympic Valley: A financial study into the effort to make Olympic Valley into a California town is under way, the results of which should be known by March 2015. Further, work on a Draft Environmental Impact Report should begin soon as well, and odds are it will be ready for review next year.

Martis Valley West: The proposed swap of land could allow 85 acres to be developed along the Sierra ridge inside the Lake Tahoe Basin, while forever preserving 6,376 acres of land in the Martis Valley (outside the Tahoe Basin). Placer County will release a draft Environmental Impact Report, while TRPA will release a draft Environmental Impact Statement, both likely coming in January.

Joerger Ranch: Perhaps forgotten in the fray of the big-ticket Tahoe Basin items, this 67-acre “Planned Community-3” development at the Brockway Road/Highway 267 crossroads proposes zoning for commercial/retail, office, industrial, residential and open space land uses. The town is processing a specific plan, and it could also be ready for public review as 2015 settles in.

There are other projects and developments out there, but for the sake of this column’s space limitations, I’m using the above five as an example.

Just imagine, in the span of four months, we could launch public review processes for all these projects. Keeping track of all the deadlines for comment periods (45 days here, 90 days there) and myriad public meetings at different locations and times and dates will be about as dizzying as trying to make sense of the percentages and updated voting numbers that are coming in from Nevada County.

Sidebar: Your guess will be as good as mine if Measure U passes or whose seat on a local board is next to fall come Thanksgiving.

But getting back to development, we will be swimming in 1- and 2-inch-thick (or more) books of environmental documents, flanked with pages upon pages of appendices, exhibits and other studies all germane to whether the projects are the right move for our future.

Which brings me to my point. Sure, on their face, these projects may sound like the end of the world for some people and groups. Not in our backyard, right?

And, likewise, for developers or groups that stand to profit (financially or recreationally), they sure do sound pretty cool. Let’s make our backyard better, right?

But until we actually get to read those books of reports and studies, I feel it is entirely too early to come to any conclusions one way or another. I’ve always lived by the advice to never read a book by its cover, and I’ll be doing that in these cases.

Based on the information I know now, versus what will be revealed in a few months’ time, I’d be doing nothing more than hypothesizing.

But here’s what I do know, based on living in this region for almost seven and a half years, and after covering projects like these, or Homewood and Boulder Bay, among others:

1. Some people are entirely resistant to even the thought of change, let alone a developer or group having the audacity to propose one.

2. On the flip, developers, businesses, corporations and other residents (whether or not they are perceived to have local investments) are just as quick to spout off the reasons why a project is good for the region.

3. In most cases, two websites offering “the real facts” will be created, one by the project manager/proponent, another by a coalition of residents/groups against the project.

4. And, in most cases, if a project does make it through to final approval, the developer better be ready to settle on at least two scale-downs from its original version, and endure at least one lawsuit for its troubles.

Which makes me wonder: If 2015 is going to have fireworks, what might 2020 have in store?

— Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Reach him for comment at

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