Tahoe City, CA – A lawsuit has been filed challenging the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) Governing Board’s decision last month to grant approval of Phase 1 of Homewood Ski Area’s Master Development Plan.
The TRPA on Dec. 14 granted JMA Ventures of San Francisco, the 50-year-old ski area’s owner, permission to move forward on the $250 million project that intends to transform the small, family ski area into a destination resort complete with a new 5-star hotel with up to 75 rooms, 56 residential condominiums, 47 multi-family condominiums, 48 ski-in ski-out chalets, 13 workforce housing apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space using Gold Standard Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green construction techniques. It’s estimated that the project, scheduled to get underway in 2014, will result in increased annual visitor spending in the local community of $16 to 20 million, approximately 180 new full-time jobs and 500 construction jobs.
The lawsuit, filed last Thursday in the U.S. District Court of Eastern California against TRPA and Placer County by Earthjustice on behalf of The Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore, seeks a new Environmental Impact Report that the Plaintiffs say “properly mitigates the effects of development near Lake Tahoe’s shores, as required by the Tahoe Regional Plan.” Opponents to the development contend that the project will result in increased air and water pollution in the Tahoe Basin. In addition, TRPA “further weakened the existing Tahoe Regional Plan by passing special amendments for Homewood that will waive or loosen restrictions on building height, residential density, and commercial development,” says Chuck Afflerbach of Earthjustice.
“TRPA has openly acknowledged that its current plan is incapable of achieving even the basic standard for water clarity in the lake,” says Wendy Park, an attorney for Earthjustice. “Rather than loosening the requirements for future development, not only in Homewood but across the entire Tahoe basin, TRPA should instead come up with a coherent and effective regional plan to restore and protect the lake.”
“We welcome a revitalized Homewood Ski Area, but the current project is simply too large,” says Mason Overstreet, Conservation Director of Friends of the West Shore. “A smaller resort in scale with the surrounding community would still bring in hundreds of jobs for residents and millions of dollars in revenue. We must be careful not to destroy the beauty that attracts visitors to Lake Tahoe in the first place.”
In addition to the new housing, Homewood’s redevelopment calls for a community swimming pool and ice skating rink, an amphitheater for summer concerts, new ski lifts and day lodge improvements, a bike trail to Tahoe City and boat parking facilities. Weekend and holiday lift ticket sales will be capped under the plan, the scope of which has already been reduced, the location of several buildings has been moved within the resort, and additional environmental monitoring requirements have been added over the next 20 years to ensure the project terms are honored.
Over 1,800 comments were submitted during the Draft Environmental Impact Statement review process, not all of which were opposed to the project.
“The environment and the economy go hand in hand,” said Rene Koijane, a full-time Homewood resident and mother of two, “and this project embraces both.”
“Today the public process worked for the benefit of Lake Tahoe,” Norma Santiago, TRPA Governing Board Chair, said last month when the development was approved. “After thousands of comments, four hours of public testimony, and a rigorous analysis of the environmental impacts of the project over the last four years, the final Homewood project will be better for the lake and the community.”