Tuesday Nov 22 2011
Homewood resort plans spark controversy, appeal to Placer supes
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Placer County’s Board of Supervisors will be weighing an avalanche of opinion when the panel meets Dec. 6 to sort out both sides in a heated debate over the Homewood Mountain resort project. Supervisors met Nov. 15 in Tahoe City for a public hearing on a third-party appeal by environmental groups of the Placer County Planning Commission’s approval of the project. Forty people stepped up to provide a range of opinions, for and against plans for the resort. The board concluded its hearing without making a decision and has allowed environmental groups behind the appeal to submit new information through this coming Monday. Additional information submitted as part of the appeal will be considered by the board at the Dec. 6 meeting, which will be held at North Auburn’s Community Development Resource Center. The project has won unanimous approval from both the planning commission and the North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council. But it has also earned criticism from environmentalists over a perceived failure to look at smaller-scale alternatives. Friends of the West Shore, the League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Area Sierra Club launched the appeal. Placer County is lead agency on the Homewood Mountain Resort Ski Area Master Plan, jointly prepared with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. It covers environmental impacts on the 1,253 acres that are part of the 49-year-old resort located within the county. The project proposal calls for up to 155 new tourist accommodation units, 181 residential units and 13 units dedicated to employee housing. Michael Johnson, Community Development Resource Agency director, told supervisors that the proposed Homewood Mountain Resort project meets the intent of a regional ski area, as it has been defined in Placer County’s general plan. “Specifically, the Homewood project would improve the supply of visitor accommodations on which the economy for the Tahoe area runs,” Johnson said. The project has gained the attention of Tahoe-area residents like Ernie Claudio, who said that there is a constant need to balance forces that want to build around the lake with forces that want to preserve it. “At the top of the priority list for the board is the protection of Lake Tahoe,” Claudio said. “The lake is a national treasure and one of the most beautiful on the face of the earth.” Claudio said he’s particularly concerned about traffic and its impacts on the Lake Tahoe area. Claudio said that the Friends of the West Shore have estimated the project will increase the impact on the lake by adding 8,000 vehicle miles of road travel every day during the summer. But that could be reduced if the private Homewood Mountain Resorts reduces the size of the project, he said.