HOMEWOOD, Calif. — In a recent story in the Sierra Sun, Laurel Ames, spokesperson for the local chapter of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, stated that there was no choice but to file suit against the recently approved Homewood Ski Area Master Plan, in part, because of the inadequacy of the environmental review process. Ms. Ames is a former executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe.
No choice? The Homewood plan was approved after an almost five-year public review process involving thousands of citizens and hundreds of presentations to local organizations and homeowners associations. The environmental document itself was approximately 2,000 pages. Many of those testifying identified themselves as members of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club.
The ultimate approval of the project followed five separate public hearings attended by literally hundreds of concerned citizens. There was not one, single dissenting vote at any of these hearings. If Ms. Ames had been at any of the hearings, she would have heard the appeals from organized labor, the plumbers, carpenters and operating engineers to approve the project so their local workers could go back to work.
The Homewood project is reducing fine sediments running into the lake and is clearly making a positive impact on water clarity. That is not an opinion. It is based on scientific analysis by soils scientists and engineers.
Homewood received the “Best in Basin” award for its restoration efforts in 2011. The Homewood project is the only mixed-use resort project in the country to be on a track to receive a gold rating from the United States Green Building Council. The project will also result in a reduction of overall vehicle miles traveled in the Tahoe Basin with the resultant positive impact on air quality. The project will replace seven acres of existing asphalt parking lots with landscaping, revegetation and trees.
In my opinion, those parties filing suit are choosing to not recognize all the environmental benefits and are choosing to not recognize community input and the democratic process that was laboriously undertaken to pass the Homewood project.
We all have choices. And the community in which I have lived for more than 25 years and where I am raising my children chose what it thinks is best for the families, the economy and the environment.
Unfortunately, the Tahoe Basin has witnessed too many decisions to sue. We were somewhat heartened by a recent interview with Darcie Goodman-Collins, the recently appointed new executive director of the League To Save Lake Tahoe, wherein she stated that her No. 1 priority was to reconnect with the local community and attempt to reestablish a sense of collaboration with the many and varied interests around the lake. In my opinion, it is a wise choice.
As my wife and many other residents here will say, the Homewood project is amazing. It’s not perfect, but let’s not allow perfection become the enemy of the amazing. We hope that the court system won’t become the enemy of the public participation process. It’s a bad choice. If Homewood is forced to close down, it certainly will be remembered as a very bad choice.
Andrew Koijane is a Homewood resident.