Agency head accused of saying too much on Homewood issue
STATELINE – The head of Tahoe’s planning agency came under fire Wednesday for providing statements to the press on the sale of Homewood Mountain Resort and the city tree-cutting issue without briefing the board that employs him first.
“Before you make a comment representing this agency to the public, this board deserves to know beforehand,” Governing Board member Julie Motamedi told the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency executive director John Singlaub. “There have been major things we’ve heard about from the press.”
Singlaub said it was appropriate to endorse public acquisition of the resort because it is consistent with the agency’s policies.
“Since the board supported our goals and policies in the past, I thought it was a fair thing to say,” he said Wednesday.
Singlaub was quoted in a May 29 Sacramento Bee article that disclosed the Homewood deal and efforts of Congressman John Doolittle, R-Roseville, to derail a partnership. The Tahoe Daily Tribune ran the article through its membership with The Associated Press.
In the article, Singlaub threw his support behind the U.S. Forest Service buying the property and said “I didn’t realize there was anyone opposed to this.”
According to board member and Placer County commissioner Bruce Kranz, no one knew about the deal so there weren’t opportunities to express opposition or support for it. He and others blasted the print media for covering the issue.
“My problem is a communications issue,” Kranz said. “The impression is: the TRPA supports the project. I did not even know what the project was. The newspaper is out trying to grab headlines. It has unnecessarily created controversy for us. That’s why I said we should have waited on the airport too.”
Singlaub met in April with JMA President Art Chapman, a longtime Truckee resident who recently bought the ski resort, and learned details of the private acquisition, but apparently knew the land was for sale from former owner Jeff Yurosek.
“I told Jeff Yurosek multiple times that he needed to get involvement from public officials,” Singlaub said. “He said Ponderosa Ranch was in public eye, and it got pulled out from under them and sold to a private party. Every property owner has right to keep things private or not.”
Chapman said he was mistaken to have agreed with Yurosek not to speak with anyone on the deal until it was nearly sealed.
“It’s my fault for not keeping the congressman appraised of what’s going on, this makes sense,” Chapman said. “We are now working with all elected officials. This could be a real public private partnership and allow Homewood to remain viable. We never intended to build and develop the mountain. I don’t know where that story came from.”
Doolittle is a high ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee and inserted a rider in a recent budget bill prohibiting the federal government from acquiring Homewood. The bill has passed the House, but awaits passage by the Senate. Chapman is still in negotiations with the Forest Service to acquire a portion of the upper mountain of the resort.
Several board members wanted to know if Doolittle was open to removing the rider. Brian Jensen, Doolittle’s district director said the congressman is seeking more information on how the acquisition would benefit taxpayers.
“How does transferring ownership of land without changing the use of the land result in an environmental improvement?” he asked.
Some $24 million in funds from the Santini-Burton Act acquired from sale of land in Southern Nevada has been set aside specifically for acquisition of a portion of Homewood.
Board member Coe Swobe said TRPA regulations state the board shall maintain a current list of properties that are in real estate negotiations with a federal body. Singlaub said there was no such list.