Squaw Plays Trump Card, Supes Approve Village Plan 4-1

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There really was only a dim hope that something different would happen yesterday at the Placer County Board of Supervisors meeting. Once the trump card was played early on during the 10 hour meeting, the writing was on the wall. Supervisors approved the controversial Village At Squaw Valley Specific Plan by a vote of 4-1. I wouldn’t be putting on your swim suit just yet though. It’s pretty likely that the next step in the process will be the litigation process, after Placer County is sued over what many believe was a faulty environmental review process.

We are thrilled and disappointed at the same time. This plan is so good it deserved a 5-0 vote.   – Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth, throwing salt into the wound in the Reno Gazette Journal

What was the trump card? Well, as many have noted here over and over, money does talk. Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth did eventually get his meeting with the California Attorney General’s office. It probably wasn’t Kamala Harris herself, but someone in the AG’s office did roll over. Squaw Valley volunteered to pay $440,000 to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to mitigate the possible effects of increased traffic on Lake Tahoe from the proposed Village project. In return, the AG’s office agreed not to file suit over the approval of the project. Keep that in mind if Kamala Harris ends up on the Democratic ticket in 2020!

By our estimates, 300 to 400 people were in the room for much of the 10 hour meeting. We did a pretty unscientific tally of the approximately 110 people that provided public comments during the meeting. About 80 of the people whom spoke asked for a reduction in the size of the project. Approximately 25 people spoke in favor of the proposal, mostly people who are Squaw’s payroll, or who own businesses that are likely to benefit from the expansion. Three people either stated that they were neutral or spoke in circles in a way that left us scratching our heads.

The bad news is that Placer County sided with the narrow interests of an out-of-state developer and against the shared values of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada. The good news is that this is not the end of the road for our effort to Keep Squaw True. – Tom Mooers, Sierra Watch

The Friends of Squaw Valley group, which came to be known as the “Gang of Five” (Stepner, Shanser, Barnett, Ilfeld and Carabetta) did their best to offer an alternative for supervisors. The proposal attempted to show that a project that was about 65% of the currently proposed project could be financially viable. A key part of the proposal included that new construction that has already been approved at the Resort At Squaw Creek and the Plumpjack would bring bedroom capacity in the valley to the number that Squaw Valley felt was viable. Ultimately, this proposal was shot down because it did not guarantee to provide the same pittances that Squaw has offered to pay for the renovation of Squaw Creek, local parks and trails and transportation initiatives.

Classic KSL propaganda. Because you can enjoy yourself in a pool, you’re supporting building a massive one anywhere in the world, no matter how spectacular a place is? I’ve shopped in a Walmart before. Should they be built in Yosemite Valley?  – Scott Gaffney, in response to a poster showing his family enjoying the Truckee community pool.

After hours of public testimony, each supervisor took the time to state their thoughts on the proposal. It’s pretty clear that the four supervisors from the west side of Placer County came to the meeting with their minds already made up. Supervisor Montgomery, representing District 5, noted that she understood the responsibility to vote with her constituents desires, whom had clearly been asking for a smaller project. She made the first motion of the day, to deny the current application and look at the 65% solution offered but the “gang of five”. The motion failed for lack of a second. A second series of motions was made to make the required approvals to set the Village plan into action, and they were quietly approved 4-1, with Supervisor Montgomery making the quiet “no” to each vote.

“If you want to see God, climb a mountain. But, I’ve never heard anyone say, if you want to see God, go to a water park.”
-Craig Beck

It was a classic Developer 101 tactic, and the supervisors fell for it hook, line and sinker. KSL Capital came in and asked for a project more than double than what they actually wanted. Everyone came out looking like a good guy in the end because the project was “reduced by more than half.” It’s likely that most of the Placer supervisors will soon be bragging about the killer Black Friday deal where they got 75% off of some second rate flat screen TV that was originally priced at 200% of its actual value.

So the public part of the process is over for now, and frankly that is a huge relief for those that are fatigued from reading about it, and especially for those of us that are tired of writing about it. It’s safe to say that we are likely still years away from a shovel of dirt being turned. There’s the litigation process to be completed and when that is done, Squaw Valley will be able to sell off the development rights to other parties. Each individual component of the project will again need to go through that standard planning process at Placer County. There’s still the question of the proposed Base To Base Gondola, which is separate from the Village plan. How much money will it take for Squaw Valley to buy the approval of the US Forest Service?

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