Homewood resort launches plans for base development | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Homewood resort launches plans for base development

David Bunker
A chairlift is seen at Homewood Ski Area on Tuesday. / Ryan Salm / Sierra Sun

The new owners of Homewood Mountain Resort have started planning for new ski lodges, restaurants, lodging, shops and employee housing at the ski resort on Lake Tahoe’s west shore.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency received a four-page letter from Homewood owner JMA Ventures following the Bay Area firm’s purchase of the resort in June. The July 7 letter initiates the process of creating a new master plan for the ski area, which occupies more than 1,000 acres in Homewood.

The resort has no current master plan filed with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, since it has changed little since the creation of the agency, said Julie Regan, spokeswoman for the TRPA.

The ski resort’s planning is expected to begin slowly, with the formation of a committee of neighbors and local agencies to comment on the plans, and the completion of environmental and traffic studies.

“It’s not a fast process,” Regan said. “Any kind of master plan brings in a lot of stakeholders.”

The master plan for the resort will also likely spur the creation of a community plan for Tahoe’s west shore, said TRPA representatives and Homewood owners. The planning agency currently does not have a community plan for the West Shore, Regan said.

JMA Ventures has offered to pay for an extra Tahoe Regional Planning Agency staffer to speed along the development of the master plan for the resort, according to the letter.

Previous plans

The plans for development at the base of Homewood Mountain Resort are not new.

The previous owners of the resort contracted with internationally known resort planner Ecosign to design a village at the base of the mountain.

The firm came up with eight buildings of lodging and commercial development over a large underground parking structure, where the resort’s parking lot stands today.

The design would accommodate 256 lodging units and 784 beds, according to the plans.

JMA Ventures, the new owners, are using some of the background in that design to develop their plans for the mountain, although they said their plans may be different.

They say they do not want to increase the size or capacity of the mountain, but plan on replacing lifts and adding new facilities at the mountain’s base, along Highway 89.

“It is the intent of the owners of [Homewood] to operate a community, family oriented ski area with the addition of base facilities including a bed base to allow guests to come and stay for several days at a time,” said the letter to the TRPA, written by Gary Midkiff, a consultant to owners JMA Ventures. “… major elements of the plan will include ski lodges, restaurants, shopping and a mix of employee housing and hotel/interval ownership tourist accommodations.”

Forest Service involvement

The new owners still have hopes of selling much of the mountain to the U.S. Forest Service and leasing the slopes back for winter skiing.

But that idea, which had been discussed with the Forest Service, came to a halt when U.S. Representative John Doolittle, R-Roseville, inserted language into the Department of Interior’s 2007 spending bill that specifically blocked the sale.

The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently in the U.S. Senate, according to Doolittle’s office.

“We won’t have any idea what the bill looks like until it comes out of conference (committee),” said Laura Blackann, spokeswoman for Congressman Doolittle.

Doolittle has said the federal government already owns enough land, and should have plans and funds to manage lands that they acquire.

The conference committee, which reconciles the bills passed by the Senate and the House, forms the final bill that will be sent to President George Bush to be signed into law.

Still the owners have continued discussing the idea with the Forest Service, according to the letter to the TRPA.

JMA President Art Chapman said in June that Homewood is seeking $22 million from the state’s Burton-Santini act for the Homewood property, excluding the land adjacent to Highway 89.

“JMA Ventures and the [U.S. Forest Service] are continuing discussions regarding the possible acquisition of a portion of the mountain to protect the watershed and environment, preserve the long term future operation of the ski resort, and overall recreation access by the public to the mountain and, at least equally important, support the economic viability of the resort,” said the letter, written by Gary Midkiff, a consultant to owners JMA Ventures.

Doolittle’s’ office is still discussing the matter with the Forest Service, said Blackann.

“Our office continues to be in contact with the Forest Service to find an agreeable and positive solution,” Blackann said.

Homewood gears up for winter

Despite all of the talk of change, Homewood appears to be planning ahead for the upcoming winter with little immediate changes.

Season passes are on sale and ticket prices are being advertised.

The resort has made headway on improving the filtration of runoff from their parking lot, which runs into Lake Tahoe, according to earlier statements by resort general manager Dave Achey.

Other than that, Homewood patrons may only notice a few consultants completing traffic studies or environmental work for the planned changes.

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