TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Following countless hours of analysis and public input over five years, Lake Tahoe area planners gave a thumbs up Wednesday to a proposal that could reshape the West Shore.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's Governing Board approved the first phase of the Homewood Mountain Resort Ski Area Master Plan during a more than nine hour meeting in Tahoe City.
The $500 million project includes construction of a 5-star hotel with up to 75 rooms, 56 residential condominiums, 47 multi-family condominiums, 48 ski-in ski-out chalets, 16 townhomes, 13 workforce housing apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space, along with an additional 40 individually owned condos and 30 individually owned penthouse units.
A public swimming pool, ice skating rink and outdoor amphitheater are also planned as part of the project. The entire project plans can be viewed at www.skihomewood.com/masterplan.
Completion of the master plan is expected to take 10 years, with the start of construction on the first phase anticipated in 2014.
About 70 people spoke at Wednesday's meeting. Approximately two-thirds encouraged approval of the project, saying its environmental benefits, as well as the economic boost it will provide, are critical to revitalize the area.
Many of those against the project said it is too big for the West Shore and will ruin the charm of the region. Some residents asked for the project to be reduced by a third.
“This location is in need of redevelopment, not overdevelopment,” said Tahoe Vista resident Ellie Waller.
Tahoma resident Judi Tornese said increased traffic from the development is the major concern of West Shore residents.
“The only way to truly mitigate the traffic impacts is to reduce the proposed resort size, number of units, people and resulting number of vehicles,” Tornese said.
A smaller project was found to be economically infeasible in a recent analysis prepared by Bay Area Economics.
“Any reduction in resort lodging units from the proposed project will reduce the potential skier revenues and impair the resort's ability to achieve ongoing operational viability,” according to the analysis, which has been criticized by project opponents.
Michael Lozeau, an attorney representing Friends of the West Shore, League to Save Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Area Sierra Club, said the analysis does not provide a complete economic picture of master plan.
“I don't think you have the evidence to say a smaller project is infeasible,” Lozeau told the governing board.
Carl Young, interim director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said the environmental group supports revitalization of West Shore, but suggested the TRPA require ski area owner JMA Ventures to take additional steps if water quality does not improve as expected under the plan.
Art Chapman, president of JMA Ventures, agreed to additional monitoring of the master plan's effects for the next 20 years following suggestions by governing board members. He said increased mitigation measures will also be used if traffic is impacted more than expected.
Projects included in the master plan are expected to keep more than 80,000 of clarity-reducing fine sediment from reaching Lake Tahoe each year, reduce the amount of coverage at the 1,200-acre resort by 235,000 square feet and improve water and energy efficiency of resort buildings.
About 500 construction jobs and 180 new full-time positions are expected from the development. Estimated annual visitor spending from the master plan is at $16-$20 million dollars.
Governing board members and TRPA executive director Joanne Marchetta lauded the project for both its economic and environmental benefits in a Wednesday statement.
“I am pleased the Board took decisive action to approve a project so critical to the health of Lake Tahoe and the West Shore community,” Marchetta said.
“Today the public process worked for the benefit of Lake Tahoe,” said Norma Santiago, governing board chair. “After thousands of comments, four hours of public testimony, and a rigorous analysis of the environmental impacts of the project over the last four years, the final Homewood project will be better for the lake and the community.”
During testimony Wednesday, Chapman recounted statements from Homewood resident Rene Koijane, who was initially skeptical of the master plan. As the project moved forward and changed following input from residents, Koijane concluded the project “wasn't perfect, but was amazing,” Chapman said.
“Too often at Lake Tahoe we hold onto perfection and we backslide,” Chapman said.
The second phase of the project, which includes construction at the resort's south lot, is estimated to begin in 2018. Projects under this phase of the master plan will need to return to the governing board for additional approvals before moving forward.