Smaller Homewood Expansion Project Gets Okay from Conservation Groups

Ski resort project on the shore of Lake Tahoe scaled back after lawsuit

Sacramento, CA–(ENEWSPF)–January 31, 2014.  Conservation groups settled with a Tahoe developer over the Homewood Mountain Resort expansion project. A smaller construction project is now proposed.

The modified project plans to reduce the project’s footprint on the mountain and remove 13 units, including seven units from an existing gravel parking site that was formerly a stream environment zone. The developer, JMA Ventures, will restore the part of the site that will not be developed to its natural stream conditions. JMA will also now conduct a detailed traffic monitoring program that will continue for 20 years after the second phase of the project is completed and implement several traffic-control measures. Nearby areas will be off limits to any recreational uses that would generate significant air, water, or noise pollution.

Led by the Tahoe Area Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore, local community and unified conservation organizations had pushed for a smaller construction project.

“The modified project will have a smaller impact on Lake Tahoe, which has already suffered so much from runaway development,” said Wendy Park, an attorney with Earthjustice, the public interest law firm that represented the environmental groups. “Any construction project this close to the shores of Lake Tahoe must be considered carefully and all environmental impacts examined closely.”

“We were able to expand the stream environment zone restoration in the project area, reduce pavement, protect the mountain outside the developed portion, and reduce the project’s overall footprint and impact on Lake Tahoe,” said Susan Gearhart, President of the Friends of the West Shore (FOWS).

In January 2013, a federal judge sent a proposed expansion of a Lake Tahoe ski resort back to the drawing board, ruling that Placer County and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) improperly analyzed the feasibility of building a smaller facility. JMA planned to transform the resort in Homewood, California, into an overnight destination resort with hundreds of new condominiums and hotel rooms and a commercial center.

Homewood Mountain Resort is a small, quaint, family-oriented ski facility located in a primarily residential community on the scenic west shore of Lake Tahoe. When JMA Ventures proposed to expand the resort, local residents and conservation groups challenged the plan before the TRPA, as well as the Placer County Board of Supervisors.

Despite concerns that the project would exacerbate summer time traffic and air pollution in Tahoe’s peak tourist season, TRPA approved the project in December 2011. The agency further weakened the existing Tahoe Regional Plan by passing special amendments for Homewood to waive or loosen restrictions on building height, residential density, and commercial development.

Laurel Ames, chair of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club group (TASC), noted that the Club was pleased that TASC, FOWS and Earthjustice negotiated a final agreement that put this Tahoe lawsuit to rest. “Now we can focus on our challenge to TRPA’s new plan that upends the small local communities in the Tahoe basin,’ said Ames. “The TRPA is imposing new rules that open the communities up to an onslaught of new luxury lodging to cater to high end tourists.  Out-of-basin corporate development interests have convinced the TRPA that Tahoe’s future depends on expansive new four-season resorts, and other Aspen-style amenities,’ Ames said.  “The Sierra Club’s overall effort is intended to protect the Lake from the impacts of this new and remodeled development, while testing the effectiveness of the developments on the damaged shoreline, the quality of the air, and the lake.”  

TRPA’s fundamental duty under the bi-state Tahoe Regional Planning Compact is to restore the Lake’s water clarity and health, which it has so far failed to accomplish. In December 2012, TRPA approved a controversial new regional plan that delegates much of its environmental protection duties back to local jurisdictions for enforcement. The plan also raised the cap on new residential and commercial units, increased building height limits, allowed more and larger paved areas, and  created a scheme to triple hotel/motel units, significantly expanding the potential for new development and increased traffic within the region.

Source: earthjustice.org