By Bettina Boxall
2:48 PM PST, January 7, 2013
A federal judge has blocked plans to greatly expand a small Placer County ski resort on the western shore of Lake Tahoe after finding that the project’s environmental review was inadequate.
In a mixed decision issued Friday, U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb ruled that Placer County and regional planners had improperly decided that plans for a smaller project weren’t economically feasible. He ordered them to reconsider a less ambitious proposal as part of a revised environmental review under California law and the bi-state compact that regulates development in the Tahoe basin.
The environmental report “misleads the public by suggesting that ticket sales revenue is the only relevant factor in assessing the financial viability of” the Homewood Mountain Resort expansion project, Shubb wrote.
But the judge, who ruled in favor of the proposal on some summary judgement motions, added that “This does not necessarily mean that the project or some version of it may not go forward at some point in time.”
The expansion would add 325 condominium and hotel units to the resort in Homewood, Calif., along with commercial space.
The proposal by JMA Ventures and Homewood Village Resorts LLC highlights the tensions over redevelopment in the Tahoe Basin.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency last month approved a new basin plan that allows greater density and taller buildings in town centers on the lake’s shore. The agency hopes the changes will give builders the financial incentive to replace aging motels and commercial strips with greener, more inviting development to stimulate the local economy and reduce urban runoff that diminishes the lake’s famed clarity.
But the Sierra Club, which filed the Homewood lawsuit with Friends of the West Shore, argues that loosening height and density restrictions will promote more traffic and pollution in the scenic basin.
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