Loggers challenge Martis growth plan | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Loggers challenge Martis growth plan

David Bunker

TRUCKEE – The California timber giant that owns nearly 8,000 acres of land in the Martis Valley will appeal a court decision that suspended development in the 25,000-acre area between Truckee and Lake Tahoe.

Sierra Pacific Industries, the largest landowner in California, said the judge and environmental groups that sued the county’s Martis Valley plan turned down its offer to put nearly 7,000 acres of their land under a conservation easement after the Martis Valley case was decided in June. The timber company’s land is undevelopable under the judge’s ruling until a new community plan can be passed or the case is appealed and reversed.

Sierra Pacific Industries is the largest property owner in the Martis Valley. Its appeal will be the second challenge to the court’s decision. Placer County has also decided to send the Martis Valley case to a higher court on an appeal.

Development plans at Northstar-at-Tahoe and Eaglewood were exempted from the judge’s ruling because of deals they struck with regional conservation groups which will fund land conservation purchases in the valley. But Sierra Pacific Industries attempts to reach a compromise that would leave it free to build on their property were unsuccessful.

“Our offer of nearly 90 percent open space is the only one of its kind made by a developer in the Sierra and seems to be the kind of development that would become the model for future projects in the Truckee/Tahoe area,” said Ed Bond, Sierra Pacific Industries spokesman, in a written statement.

When the timber company’s offer to block development on Martis Peak and a portion of the Tahoe Basin rim – and also allowing public access to the land – was declined, Sierra Pacific Industries began to question the conservationists motives, said Bond.

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“We are extremely disappointed by the court’s decision and we question the sincerity of the activist groups to find workable solutions which could have prevented a lawsuit in the first place,” Bond stated.

But Tom Mooers, executive director of the conservation group Sierra Watch, said that a deal that would allow any development on the northeastern side of Highway 267 would never have been endorsed by conservationists.

“Sierra Watch has made it clear to Sierra Pacific Industries and anyone else that wants to listen that development on that northern side of Highway 267 doesn’t make sense,” Mooers said. “Our goal is to permanently protect the priority conservation land on that side of Highway 267 and that is what we are working on.”

Mooers said that he believes the timber giant has floated development plans for its 8,000 acres to increase the value of the land on the western side of Martis Peak.

“Every move they’ve made looks like an effort to pump up the speculative value of their property,” Mooers said.

Sierra Watch, the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation and the Truckee Donner Land Trust have partnered to attempt to preserve the land on the northeastern side of Highway 267 by purchasing or establishing conservation easements on the property.

In 2001, Sierra Pacific Industries proposed a six-chairlift ski resort on its land, with 1,360 residential units. But the company’s land is in a Timber Production Zone designation, which does not allow ski resort development or housing, said Mooers. The land would have to be rezoned by the county before development could take place.

Sierra Pacific Industries was not available for additional comment on the planned appeal.

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