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December 17, 2013
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Squaw Valley unveils scaled-back redevelopment plan

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — Squaw Valley on Monday unveiled an updated village redevelopment proposal that officials say creates a smaller and more focused plan while respecting the mountain and preserving the historic legacy of the Olympic ski resort.

“We basically surgically went through the plan and said, ‘How can we solve as many problems as possible?’” said Chevis Hosea, vice president of development for the Olympic Valley ski resort. “… We think we’ve solved 90 to 95 percent of the issues.”

While the previous project boundary of 101.5 acres will likely not change significantly with the new proposal, Hosea said, several key adjustments and reductions in this third major reworking of the project include:

Reduction in proposed bedrooms from 2,184 to 1,493, a 33 percent decrease.

Reduction in lodging units from 1,093 to 750.

Reduction in size of Mountain Adventure Camp (previously called Grand Camp) from 132,000 square feet to about 90,000 overall, and 90,000 square feet to 50,000 in footprint.

Preservation of the Member’s Locker Room and Olympic House, previously slated to be replaced by high-end hotels.

Relocating Squaw Kids from its current location by the Member’s Locker Room to next door to the year-round indoor, outdoor Mountain Adventure Camp.

Maintaining surface parking lots for day skiers; these were previously slated to become enclosed with buildings on top.

Limit building heights, with the maximum going from eight stories to seven stories.

‘CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC’

While the previous plan was expected to take 12 to 15 years to complete over four phases, the updated project has two phases that could take 20 to 25 years to complete, Hosea said. The extended timeline is due to further collection and study of past regional development.

“These new plans reflect the input of literally thousands of our friends and neighbors in the Tahoe region,” said Andy Wirth, Squaw’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement. “We listened, and we’re ready to move forward with a scaled-down development.”

Past concerns raised by residents and conservation groups included the size and density of the previous plan; impacts to Olympic Valley’s natural surroundings; and the project’s economic viability, among others.

On Tuesday, Ed Heneveld, chairman of the grassroots group Friends of Squaw Valley — one of the more outspoken critics of Squaw’s earlier proposal — said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the new plan.

“It is so much better than before — what they have on the table now,” he said.

Another group critical of the project is Sierra Watch, a Nevada City-based regional conservation organization.

“Comparisons to (resort owner) KSL’s 2011 proposals might be encouraging, but future generations will never even see that plan,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch. “So the issue isn’t if the new plan is not-as-bad-as the old one. What matters is if the new plan is good-enough-for — good enough for Squaw, good enough for Tahoe, good enough for us today and good enough for generations to come.”

Sierra Watch vows to assess the revised plan based on its own merits and impacts, according to a Monday statement from the group.

“Like any land use decision-making process, the debate over Squaw’s future is going to get complicated — touching on everything from the water quality of Squaw Creek to traffic in Tahoe City,” Mooers said. “Our job is to ensure that we never lose sight of the irreplaceable values that give Squaw its incredible sense of place.”

WHAT’S NEXT

This week, the project’s draft Environmental Impact Report process will start being informed of the changes, Hosea said.

It’s uncertain when the draft EIR will be released, said Alex Fisch, senior planner for Placer County Planning Services, on Tuesday.

Placer County can expect an updated Specific Plan from Squaw in the first full week of January 2014, Hosea said. Squaw’s goal is to begin project construction in the spring of 2016, he said.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 17, 2013 06:20PM Published Dec 23, 2013 10:02AM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.