Squaw Valley Dangles $7.5 Million in Front of the Community

Uncle Andy is handing out money, desperately seeking community approval for his Village plan.
Uncle Andy is handing out money, desperately seeking community approval for his Village plan.

Earlier today Squaw Valley released it’s latest and most desperate marketing ploy designed to gain approval of the proposed Village at Squaw Valley Development, the formation of the Squaw Valley Foundation. According to Squaw Valley Ski Holdings CEO Andy Wirth, the foundation would “address issues and fund environmental, transit and recreational initiatives and further land conservation and cultural preservation within Olympic Valley. Funding for the foundation would come from a 1.5% transfer tax from sales within the proposed Village at Squaw Valley specific plan. Squaw Valley estimates that the fee would generate $7.5 million, one would assume as entitlements and land are sold to developers. Another $1 million could be generated annually through real estate transfers. Here’s the kicker, the foundation, and its funding would only happen if Placer County officials approve the Village plan. No approval, no foundation, no money.

The astute reader has already noted that this announcement came just 9 days before the Placer County Planning Commission is set to discuss, and potentially approve or deny the proposal. We can’t help but wonder if  Squaw Valley Ski Holdings is attempting to influence the opinion of Placer County officials, and the general public, with such a “generous” offer at this particular time. It would not even be Squaw Valley or KSL Capital’s money being used to fund the foundation. Funding would simply come from an extra 1.5% fee tacked on to each real estate transaction. That little time share unit you wanted in Shirley Canyon just got to be quite a few thousand dollars more expensive.

We’re not quite sure what to call this latest move by Squaw CEO Andy Wirth and Squaw Valley. We’ve seen a lot of emails today, and a number of online posts that use the words “bribery”, “undue influence”, and “interfering with the public process.” A quick search of Roget’s also brings up the possible descriptors of “influence peddling”, “buying off”, “persuasion”, and “sweeteners”. We do know it’s not the first time we have seen Wirth attempt to influence public opinion.

• In November 2014, we published a report on Andy Wirth’s self-authored attempt to influence local non-profits to elicit support for the Village project.

• Similar efforts have been made by Andy and Squaw Valley to use well known local athletes to speak out in favor of the development. Most of these athletes also receive some sort of compensation or support for being the voice of Squaw Valley. Their efforts have not been very transparent.

• Squaw Valley Ski Holdings contributed more than $850,000 to the campaign to defeat the incorporation of Olympic Valley. The formation of the proposed town of Olympic Valley would have likely served the same functions as proposed for the foundation, except that representatives would have been voted in rather than hand selected by Andy and friends.

• Previous versions of the specific plan offered up to $2 million for the restoration of Squaw Creek. It’s unknown whether this would become a part of the foundation responsibilities, or if the newly set aside monies are in addition to that $2 million. We’ve said before that although the current owners of Squaw Valley are not the one that created  the environmental disaster that is the Squaw Valley parking lot and the channelized Squaw Creek – they should have a keen interest in fixing the problem, without insisting that it does not happen unless the community approves a vastly over-sized development.

We hope that the community and Placer County officials can see through the latest smoke and mirrors ruse. The fact that they are offering this money at this time in the process should call their motives into question. The foundation would not be able to do that much in counteracting the 23 different “substantial and unavoidable impacts” identified in the project’s Environmental Impact Report. The foundation would focus on only Olympic Valley, but the effects of the Village at Squaw Valley proposal will reach far beyond the valley. That’s why the opposition to this plan stretches far past the local community. We encourage you to attend:

    • Placer County Planning Commission Meeting
    • August 11th, 2016 at 10:30 am
    • North Tahoe Events Center, Kings Beach

The folks over are Keep Squaw True are suggesting that people arrive at the meeting by 10:00 am to secure parking and seating, as a crowd is expected. Squaw Valley will seemingly stop at nothing to get approval for the behemoth known as the “Village At Squaw Valley Redevelopment Plan”. It’s not the right plan for Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, or the northern Lake Tahoe and Sierra region. The presence of the community at the meeting is the best way to ensure that Placer County is listening to the people and not just smelling the money.

Update: We also enjoyed the Death Of The Pressbox spin on the proposed non-profit posted Wednesday. Their article titled “Squaw sets up scarecrow nonprofit to seduce, frighten Basin residents” draws similar conclusions to ours, but also delves deeper in the true reasons SVSH is seeking to set up the nonprofit.

Here comes the supposed nonprofit arm of the private equity firm hellbent on turning Olympic Valley into the Four Points Sheraton near the MacArthur Maze.  -Andrew Pridgen on Death Of The Press Box

Addendum: Here’s the article we actually meant to write today.. 

We are not alone in thinking the proposal is just a bad idea. Two more opinion pieces popped up in the Sierra Sun this week. Here’s the links:

http://www.sierrasun.com/news/23227624-113/opinion-silent-majority-opposes-squaw-village-development

http://www.sierrasun.com/news/23228514-113/opinion-squaw-valley-tahoe-deserve-better-than-current

Oh, yes, there was also one letter of support of the project. It was written by olympic skier Julia Mancuso. I’m shocked I tell ya, just shocked.

http://www.sierrasun.com/news/23227543-113/julia-mancuso-opinion-i-support-the-squaw-village

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