HOMEWOOD, Calif. - A federal judge has upheld a decision preventing proposed development at Homewood Mountain Resort from moving forward until a downsized project gets a closer look.
Late last month, U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb rejected a motion by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Placer County and Homewood Mountain Resort operators asking for an amendment to a January order.
In that order, Shubb determined construction of Homewood's master plan cannot proceed until an environmental document giving further consideration to a smaller project was prepared and circulated. Shubb found Placer County and TRPA improperly analyzed a downsized version of the master plan. The version, known as Alternative 6, would have reduced the scope of development under the master plan by about 15 percent.
The approved project, estimated to cost about $500 million, includes construction of a 75-room hotel, more than 140 condominiums, 48 ski-in ski-out chalets, 30 penthouse units, 16 townhouses, 13 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space. Environmental upgrades and land restoration are also included in the master plan.
In challenging the January order, representatives of Homewood and the government agencies contended the project's environmental document fully analyzed the smaller project, and the document did not need to be reopened or amended to cure the deficiency identified by the court.
Following a Feb. 25 hearing, Shubb rejected the groups' motion and reaffirmed his order for an amended environmental document properly evaluating the economic feasibility of the smaller development.
"To properly compare alternatives, information on how each alternative meets or fails to meet the project's objectives must be adequate and accurate," Shubb wrote in his decision. "Because the project's economic feasibility is one of its key objectives, simply redoing findings will not cure the defect in the EIR-EIS identified by the court in its Order and ensure that the EIR-EIS is the public informational document and guide for the agencies it is intended to be."
Trent Orr, an attorney for Earthjustice, who argued on behalf of the plaintiffs in the case, Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore, said in a statement that Shubb's February order reinforced the need for the public to get a fair chance to review and comment on whether a smaller Homewood alternative is feasible and desirable.
Art Chapman, founder of JMA Ventures, which operates Homewood, said in a statement that he felt the "thoroughly reviewed" and "transparently available" master plan will ultimately prevail and will put the resort on a path toward economic sustainablilty.
"We will continue to follow due process of the law, and will comply with Judge Shubb's directive to amend and recirculate the EIR/EIS for further public review," Chapman said.
The recent rulings stem from a January 2012 suit by the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore challenging approval of Homewood's master plan.
- Sierra Sun editor Kevin MacMillan contributed to this story.