Editorial: Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth Declares Victory In War Over Incorporation

We just love this picture of Andy...yes, we've used it before.
We just love this picture of Andy…yes, we’ve used it before, but it just seems right for this editorial.

It’s been a long tough war. This week, Save Olympic Valley, funded 100% by Squaw Valley and led by Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth, declared victory in stopping the incorporation of the town of Olympic Valley. The press release was issued after the Placer County Local Agency Formation Commission met on Wednesday to address the financial viability of the town after the California State Controller’s office identified multiple errors in the draft CFA.

It would be incorrect to call it a press release, as it appears that Squaw Valley released the email addresses of passholders to the Save Olympic Valley campaign. Many have noted their dissatisfaction with receiving the email without signing up for SOV communications.

We reported earlier this month that Incorporate Olympic Valley officials had reviewed the issues identified by the SCO, and calculated that the town of Olympic Valley would be viable. It could be so viable that it would have the capability to generate millions of dollars in reserves over 10 years. Such a drastic change in a CFA outcome is unprecedented and that left many questions about how LAFCO would respond this week.

We weren’t able to attend the meeting, but we heard it was quite tense. But the upshot is that it appears as if LAFCO chose to ignore the $125,000 review of the CFA completed by the California State Controllers Office, which was paid for by the generous supporters of IOV. Without making any corrections to the flawed CFA, LAFCO board members would have no choice but to reject the application for the incorporation of Olympic Valley. It seems as if they were anxious to be able to just be done with the proposal.

While IOV has not said anything officially, we’re guessing this is the end of the line for the incorporation movement. It’s not the end of the line because the town of Olympic Valley is not a good idea or isn’t financially viable. It’s just that the opponents of incorporation, primarily Squaw Valley Holdings and KSL Capital, vastly outspent the local community group that supported the incorporation. Instead of waiting until the initiative made it to the ballot and run a “no” campaign, Save Olympic Valley disrupted the democratic process, muddied the waters and cast uncertainity about the town’s fiscal viability, contrary to the State Controller’s Review findings.

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We’ve been tracking the numbers ever since this war started. Through October 2015, Squaw Valley has contributed nearly $800,000 to the Save Olympic Valley campaign when you include monetary contributions and non-monetary contributions. Keep in mind that’s just the portion that they are required to report as contributions to the campaign. We have no doubts that there have been many more dollars spent greasing the wheels to make sure the outcome of the incorporation effort was guaranteed to fail before it could be put in front of the registered voters.

“This meeting validated most of what we have known and have been saying for quite some time, and that is that incorporation is not feasible and is a patently dangerous notion not just for the community of Olympic Valley, but also for the entire community of North Lake Tahoe and Placer County. With the great many variables and challenges our community has, introducing yet another civic entity — and in this case, a fiscally unstable civic entity — doesn’t make any sense, whatsoever.”  -Andy Wirth, Squaw Valley CEO

It’s interesting to note Wirth’s choice of words describing the dangers of the incorporation, as the same words could be used to describe the current SVRE proposals for the Village at Squaw Valley project and Gondola connection project. There are many people that feel these projects are not feasible and represent a patently dangerous notion about what is appropriate for development in the Tahoe region.

If the incorporation of Olympic Valley fails, it’s not necessarily a win for Wirth, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings and KSL Capital. It’s a sign to all of us that we had better take a stand, a strong one, and sooner rather than later. The ruthless behavior publicly displayed by Andy Wirth is an eye opener to the depths in which he will go to push his agenda. The reality is that the development plans being offered by SVSH and KSL will have impacts that reach far beyond the boundaries of Olympic Valley. The draft Environmental Impact report identified more than 20 different “significant and unavoidable impacts”, many of them would affect people all over the North Lake Tahoe and Truckee area. Those impacts resulted in more than 350 individuals and agencies speaking up to share their concerns about the project.

Sadly, we know that won’t be nearly enough to get the attention of Placer County supervisors. Squaw Valley is all ready making the case for Placer County to overlook the concerns in the EIR due to “over-riding considerations.” The fact that they are hammering on the creation of 1400 jobs is a clear sign that they will be pushing that as a reason to overlook the facts in this case. It’s going to take a huge movement of people to get Placer County to say no to the supersize development proposal, and insist that they only consider proposals for reasonable redevelopment and growth at Squaw Valley. It might just be easier to keep Tahoe KSL free.

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We have great respect for every member of the Olympic Valley community that gave their energy, time, money and lives toward the incorporation movement, known as IOV, over the last three years. We’ve always known that it was a David vs Goliath battle. The fact that this dedicated group of individuals didn’t give up much sooner is a testament to how strongly people feel about the unique thing we have in Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Lake Tahoe. All we can do now is stand together to protect it from over-development.

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