July 7, 2016
Kings Beach, Calif. – In a stunning victory for Tahoe conservationists today, the Placer County Planning Commission voted to deny approval of the Martis West development project, proposed for the mountain ridges above North Lake Tahoe.
“Today’s vote is great news for everyone who loves Tahoe” said Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch. “It’s not necessarily the end of the road for the project, but it’s a clear indication that it has no place in North Lake Tahoe.”
The Commission’s 5-2 vote to deny the project is technically a recommendation made to the Placer County Board of Supervisors, who maintain final decision-making authority.
But it’s not a recommendation that was made – nor will likely be taken – lightly. The Commission held two day-long hearings, took hours of public testimony, and researched thousands of pages of planning documents before reaching their decision.
The project is part of a two-step proposal for the ridge dividing the Tahoe Basin and North Lake Tahoe at Brockway Summit.
The Martis Valley West project, at issue at today’s hearing, proposes a gated development of 760 new dwelling units on the Martis Valley side of the ridge.
The Brockway Campground resort development, a subsequent proposal, would include 550 sites and commercial facilities on the Tahoe Basin side of the ridge.
Today’s meeting was a continuation of the initial Planning Commission hearing on the Martis West proposal. At that hearing, held in North Tahoe on June 9, the Commission took hours of public testimony – nearly all in opposition to the project.
But they wanted to find out more, so they asked to suspend the hearing and meet again, with a focus on how the proposed development would impact three specific issues: (1) Traffic and Highway 267; (2) Fire Safety & Emergency Evacuation; and (3) Lake Tahoe.
With the onset of the 2016 fire season, safety was a hot topic. Representatives of local agencies and first responders discussed their concerns about emergency evacuation.
Captain Ryan Stonebraker came from the Truckee-based office of the California Highway Patrol. He pointed out that they have a bicycle patrol in North Tahoe because the traffic is already so bad. As he told the Commission, “A bicycle is the only thing that can get around in Kings Beach.”
Beth Kenna spoke on behalf of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District and told the Commission that the district and its Chief “share our constituents’ concerns in regards to the added fire and evacuation challenges”.
“We are not confident that our concerns have been adequately addressed by the applicant through the County,” said Kenna.
Hundreds of Tahoe residents attended the hearing, many holding up signs that read, “DENY Martis Valley West.” A stream of locals stepped to the podium to address the Commission.
Once again, public input was overwhelming. Every speaker expressed opposition and urged the Commission to deny the project.
No one but the developers and their consultants spoke in favor of the project.
Local conservation groups were united in their opposition.
Alexis Ollar of Truckee-based Mountain Area Preservation pointed to the project’s impact on traffic. Proposed development would add to roads and highways already at gridlock.
Ollar urged the Commission, “Please send the applicants back to the drawing board.”
The League to Save Lake Tahoe pointed out that the project would jeopardize its ongoing work to “Keep Tahoe Blue”.
The project would pump new traffic and cars into the Tahoe Basin. That traffic leads to an increase in Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT), which, in turn, leads to further loss in the lake’s famous clarity – arguable the region’s most fundamental asset.
“A vote to approve this project is a vote against the lake,” Shannon Eckmeyer of the League to Save Lake Tahoe told the Commission.
And, in the end, the Planning Commission agreed.
After some discussion amongst themselves, they were ready to take a vote, quickly passing resolutions to recommend to deny certification of the project’s Environmental Impact Report and to deny the project itself.