November 15, 2016 became a day of infamy for Squaw Valley

November 15, 2016 became a day of infamy for Squaw Valley.  The four Placer County Board of Supervisors who reside in the urbanized, western end of the county voted to approve the Village at Squaw Valley Specific Plan.  The 4 to 1 decision left our 5th district supervisor, Jennifer Montgomery, as the lone dissenting vote.  Even with over 100 local residents speaking out against the size of this project, their concern was ignored in light of taxes, fees, and other “goodies” promised to Placer County and its various services.

Recall that this same group of supervisors, not more than one month ago, approved the Martis Valley West plan, a development of over 760 homes to the west of Highway 267, by the same 4 to 1 margin (again with Supervisor Montgomery dissenting).  It would appear that there is no limit to what the Supervisors will approve, and no consideration for the damage to our region and the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

At the beginning of this developer’s entitlement quest, Supervisor Montgomery suggested we not just say NO, but that we explain what we wanted and what we could live with.  We took her at her word, and offered one alternative – a viable, developer friendly, Reduced Size Alternative that is 2/3 the size of what has been approved.  Predictably, the other 4 supervisors accepted the hasty and erroneous rebuttal by the KSL lawyer; the public was not allowed to respond.  While Supervisor Montgomery, in good faith to the electorate she represents, moved to evaluate  a smaller alternative plan, no second to her motion was made.

The outcome was a predictable foregone conclusion, especially after the last minute financial deal with the Attorney General’s office was announced.  The developer has promised huge sums of money to everyone, and, succumbing to the sirens, the supervisors found for overriding considerations and decided to allow the project to proceed despite the numerous unmitigatable, adverse environmental effects.

While this ends this phase of activity, the Friends have not yet fulfilled our mission statement from 2012: “The Friends of Squaw Valley is a forum whose mission is to advocate for environmentally sustainable, economically viable, and aesthetically compatible development in Squaw valley while preserving its community character.”  We still believe in that statement and will continue to fight for that vision.

So many concerns remain.  The problem of traffic, already often at gridlock, has not been solved by throwing money at the problem.  The permanent, increased noise issue is not solved by the speculative and questionable mitigation of applying Rubberized Hot Mix Asphalt to our main road.  The entrance to Shirley Canyon would be adversely impacted by tree cutting and placing fractional homes in currently undeveloped, critical aquifer recharge zones.   Squaw Creek would be permanently threatened by placing the heavy maintenance facility with its hazardous and toxic chemicals as well the the “propane tank farm” next to the stream.  The requested 25-year timeline approval window is way too generous for this developer (who will be gone in less than 5).  Recreational drivers change and certainly will be different in the next quarter century.  Climate change is real and is not meaningfully addressed in this proposal.  Why is there no commitment by the developer to green and solar energy?

Going forward, one can accept the outcome of the process.  Others, however, will pursue litigation against Placer County and the Developer in view of the many issues with the Environmental Impact Report and the failure to credibly evaluate viable, smaller alternatives. We can expect, given the history of KSL with the Incorporate Olympic Valley effort, that the legal battle will be ugly, divisive, expensive, and most likely lengthy.

At this time, the Friends of Squaw Valley will not engage in an independent lawsuit to challenge the Board of Supervisors’ decision.  However, if you want to support the legal challenge, you should consider financial support to the groups that are involved. It is almost certain that one of the litigants will be the Keep Squaw True group, Sierra Watch  (http://www.sierrawatch.org/conservation-campaigns/squaw-valley ) and there may very well be others.

During the litigation process, we will make periodic public comments and share new information as it occurs.  Our hope is that either the courts or the developer’s concerns about a protracted battle will force negotiations for a smaller, less environmentally impactful project, and one the community can live with.  When and if that occurs, the Friends will re-emerge as watch dogs – vigilant as to the promises made as well as to critique actual implementation buildout and its effects on our valley and our lives.  Remember that whatever emerges will still be entitlements only, and the developer must still submit every project to the scrutiny of the community organizations and the public.