Eco Truckee Tahoe
Squaw Valley KSL Developers “Out of Touch” Says Local Resident
By Ted Lipien
Residents and environmental groups declared KSL Capital Partners’ proposed development of Squaw Valley Ski Resort as being “out of touch” with the culture and values of the region. Vast majority of residents who spoke at the Placer County Board of Supervisors meeting in Kings Beach, CA on October 20, 2015 were strongly against KSL development plans, which include, in addition to 1,500 new bedrooms, high-rise hotels and condos, a proposal to build in Squaw Valley a massive indoor amusement water park with watersides and fake rivers.
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Placer County officials also face other major development proposals for North Tahoe which threaten the environment and quality of life of local residents and visitors to the area, already exposed to unacceptable levels of car traffic and noise from private jets.
An overflow crowd of Tahoe locals urged decision makers to “KEEP SQUAW TRUE” as some of their representatives, including leaders of environmental and community organizations, spoke at the meeting of the Placer County Board of Supervisors in Kings Beach, CA on October 20, 2015.
Sweeping development proposals would remake North Lake Tahoe, according to Sierra Watch, a local environmental organization which works for land preservation in Tahoe’s Martis Valley, on Donner Summit, and for protecting other Sierra landscapes.
“Development projects proposed for eastern Placer County in Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Martis Valley, and the Tahoe Basin would add thousands of new bedrooms, ten-story tall highrises, and an indoor water park to the famed mountain region,” Sierra Watch said in a press release.
“The decisions made in the months ahead will shape Tahoe for generations to come,” said Tom Mooers, Executive Director of Sierra Watch. “We’re committed to securing outcomes that respect the timeless values of Tahoe itself.”
The Board of Supervisors listened to a report from Placer County planning staff on a number of individual proposals, including:
Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan: more than 1,500 bedrooms in a series of ten-story tall condo/hotels and an indoor water park;
Brockway Campground: 104-acre resort complex with 550 sites, ranging from tent sites to structures on the north rim of the Tahoe Basin;
Alpine Meadows/Squaw Valley Base-to-Base Gondola: new connection between two resorts proposed for land designated as Granite Chief Wilderness; and
Martis Valley West Parcel: 760 residential units and 6.6 acres of commercial uses on 775 acres in Martis Valley along the rim of the Tahoe Basin.
Placer County has issued an environmental assessment, known as a Draft Environmental Impact Report, for just one of the four biggest projects, the Squaw Valley proposal. Public response was overwhelming.
According to Mooers, a total of 338 local jurisdictions, regulatory agencies, private organizations, and individual citizens submitted comments on the Squaw assessment to Placer County. ‘Nearly all − 97% − expressed opposition to the project’.”
Representatives from the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Mountain Area Preservation, and North Tahoe Preservation Alliance also addressed the Placer County Board of Supervisors and expressed their opposition to various aspects of several development projects, including development on Lake Tahoe’s iconic ridgeline.
There was only one substantive comment from a local resident in support of the KSL Capital Partners’ proposed development of Squaw Valley Ski Resort.
The development’s supporter said: “We’re not against the project as some would have you believe.” He added:
“We have chosen to work constructively with the county and the developer to arrive at a project outcome that makes sense to us.”
Listen to full audio of Keith Fountain who said that his remarks were on behalf of homeowners of Squaw Valley Lodge.
Video of the entire October 20 Placer County Board of Supervisors meeting is expected to be available soon for online viewing at this Placer County website link.
While Sierra Watch Executive Director Tom Mooers was pointing out that 97 percent of responses submitted to Placer County expressed opposition to the KSL Squaw Valley proposal, the development’s supporter said that Sierra Watch was a vocal minority and that supporters of the project were in fact “a silent majority.”
Opponents of KSL proposals were clearly dominant during the meeting in the number of attendees and the number of speakers. The meeting room was overflowing with volunteers wearing purple “Keep Squaw True” t-shirts. At one point, the Chair interrupted Mooers to ask the “Keep Squaw True” crowd to watch the meeting from an adjacent room because of fire code regulations limiting the number of people in the auditorium.
“As I stand before you today, it would be easy for me to tell you that this proposal (KSL Capital Partners) is too vast, too large, simply because it is.
It would be easy for me to talk about the fact that the proposal is out of touch with the values and culture of the region as a whole, because it simply is.”
The same resident added:
“The people of this community want a bigger voice. The people of this community want to see a more tempered approach.”
Listen to full audio.
“KSL said in their original plan, ‘they plan to shine the place up and sell it.’ They’re not going to be around to pick up the pieces when it all comes down.”
Ann Nichols, North Tahoe Preservation Alliance President, said:
“I don’t know just how we’ll be able to handle this. Everything that has been said about Squaw, obviously it’s just going to be a real blemish.”
Alexis Ollar, Executive Director of the environmental non-profit Mountain Area Preservation (MAP) said that the project should be reduced by 50 percent:
“It’s not just Squaw Valley where those impacts are going to be captured. It’s going to leak out to the [Tahoe] basin and Truckee.”
“I just don’t want to see my life, my [home] value be ruined because KSL wants to do things.”
One longtime senior resident of Alpine Meadows expressed traffic and safety concerns in relation to the KSL development proposals. Existing development has already increased car traffic, as it has led to more private jet flights to the local airport, bringing traffic jams and unacceptable levels of plane noise and disruption to the quality of life and recreation for local residents and visitors.
As one resident at the meeting pointed out, excessive traffic and noise cause lowering of home values and make selling homes in such areas difficult.
In a reference to a potential problem of trying to get to a hospital in a medical emergency, the senior citizen said:
“I would hate to meet my ultimate fate stuck on state route 89 between Alpine Meadows and Truckee.”
Ted Lipien is a journalist, internationally published writer and media freedom nonprofit NGO director. His articles have appeared in The Washington Times, The Washington Examiner, National Review, American Diplomacy Journal and in other newspapers and magazines. His investigative journalism work has been noted by NPR, Fox News, Congressional Record, The Washington Post, The New York Times and other publications. Much of his previous work as a former Voice of America journalist and former acting associate director focused on Soviet propaganda and disinformation. He is the author of “Wojtyla’s Women: How They Shaped the Life of Pope John Paul II and Changed the Catholic Church,” (London: O-Books, 2008)