The Tahoe Basin will no longer be included in the Martis Valley West Project, which originally called for 112 residential units on land inside the Basin. The developer asked Placer County Tuesday to exclude 138 acres of Tahoe Basin land, while maintaining the transfer of development rights in Martis Valley, after environmental groups urged them to not develop within the Basin.
“A part of the Martis Valley West Parcel Project initially contemplated having a Tahoe Basin residential development component. Certain parties have made it clear that conservation in the Martis Valley is not their priority,” wrote Project Manager Kurt Krieg to Placer County. “The Tahoe Basin-centric focus ultimately jeopardizes the successful completion of the conservation legacy, upon which stakeholders have been working collaboratively for a decade.”
The developer, Mountainside Partners (formerly East West Partners), also asked that the county suspend the application to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for approval of any new development within an Area Plan in the Tahoe Basin, which means any future development on the Tahoe Basin land would have to be approved separate from the Martis Valley West Project. Mountain Area Preservation, Sierra Watch, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, and Placer County Supervisors Jennifer Montgomery and Jack Duran had been urging the developer to exclude the Basin from its proposal.
“Because the Basin land will be separated from the rest of the project, approvals will not require Tahoe Regional Planning Agency action,” Montgomery said in a statement. “Additionally, the applicant will work with the agency to more accurately define the boundary line for the Tahoe Basin. If necessary, a boundary line adjustment will be done to ensure the project is a separate legal parcel from any land within the Tahoe Basin.”
Blake Riva, a senior partner with Mountainside Partners, said it became clear that the entire project could be jeopardized if the Basin portion was included in the project. Montgomery told Moonshine Ink that she would have had “a hard time” voting in favor of the project if development inside the Basin was included. She said she, Duran, and the groups worked with the developer to avoid future litigation on the project.
“We are now preserving the original vision of the Martis Valley Opportunity Agreement,” Riva said.
The Original Plan
The Martis Valley Opportunity Agreement was formed in 2013 by Mountainside Partners, Sierra Pacific Industries, Sierra Watch, and MAP to preserve 6,376 acres of land in Martis Valley — which would connect more than 50,000 acres of contiguous open space between Martis Valley and Mount Rose Wilderness. The Martis Valley West Project proposes to shift a portion of the allowed development from the east parcel to the west parcel, where development is currently not allowed. Up to 760 residential units and 6.6 acres of commercial use would be built on the west parcel, now all on the Martis Valley side. The remaining allowable development of 600 residential units would be retired. The entire east parcel, as well as 352 acres on the west parcel, would become permanent open space.
Alexis Ollar, executive director of MAP, said she is pleased that the original vision of the project has been agreed upon.
“We’ve been urging them to drop that portion of the project,” Ollar said of the Basin component. “It wasn’t part of our original agreement … We never anticipated any TRPA rulings on this. Some good organizing took place and we can move forward. We hope it is a development everyone can agree with.”
Several Tahoe Basin groups, including the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the Sierra Club, and the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance held several public meetings this fall urging the developer to exclude the Tahoe Basin land from the project. Sierra Watch Executive Director Tom Mooers said he was happy that Mountainside Partners withdrew its Basin proposal.
“This is good news for Tahoe and good news for Martis Valley,” Mooers said. “This really was a case of the wrong place at the wrong time. Now we can get back to what we’ve been working on.”
Krieg said Placer County will submit a notice of preparation sometime in February, and a draft environmental impact report will be released this spring. Addendums will be included on all the studies to exclude the Basin portion.
“We are scaling the project back,” Krieg said. “We are merely moving the boundary line.”
Future Basin Development?
Although many are praising the change, some groups are still concerned that development could happen on the Basin land in the future. Riva said a separate project will be submitted to TRPA for a campground that will include tent sites, campers, and eco shelters. The 112-acre parcel is currently zoned to allow 835 campsites.
“We remain concerned that the issue is not dead and the development proposal will arise again in another form,” wrote Darcie Goodman Collins, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, in a statement to Moonshine Ink. “We’re seeking more information from the developers to see what other proposals may come forward for developing the land. We are skeptical of ideas floated so far and will continue to keep a close watch on the situation.”
Ann Nichols, president of the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, said she also has concerns about a future campground on the site.
“We just have to sit back and see what they are going to do,” Nichols said. “There’s nothing formal and now an unknown campground in addition to the project.”
Riva said more information will be provided on the project in the near future but that it could include a “turnkey” experience for families with all amenities included.
No matter what the future holds, conservation groups and Montgomery are celebrating the victory of taking 112 units outside the Basin.
“I’m very encouraged about how well everyone worked together,” Montgomery said. “It is just a better project in a place that makes more sense.