Locals worry over Homewood Resort trying to become member-only; No plans submitted yet
HOMEWOOD, Calif. — Over 60 years ago Homewood Mountain Resort opened, becoming an important part of the Lake Tahoe West Shore community. Now, with Homewood breaking ground on its residential development plan, residents and patrons of the mountain are worried about what its future could look like.
Plans for a newer, brighter Homewood began in 2006, when the mountain was acquired by JMA Ventures, a real estate investment firm with offices in San Francisco and Sacramento.
In 2011, after years of public engagement, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency approved Homewood’s Master Plan.
According to a TRPA press release issued in 2011, “the project’s goal is to transform Homewood into an environmentally friendly four-season resort by adding hotel accommodations and amenities to attract destination visitors. This will add to the local economy while creating environmental improvements to protect the environment and improve the clarity of Lake Tahoe.”
The Homewood Master Ski Area Plan included many environmental and economic improvements in the project area, as well as community enhancements such as a swimming pool and ice-skating rink, an outdoor amphitheater for summer concerts, ski area improvements (upgrading lifts, lodge improvements, hotel for longer stays) and better skiing experience through cap on weekend and holiday ticket sales.
There was a robust public engagement process in 2011. Leading up to the TRPA approval, the agency received 1,800 comments. During that meeting, “TRPA’s Governing Board heard nearly 70 public comments which were more than two-to-one in support of approving the Homewood Mountain Resort project,” the press release stated.
However, in 2022, Art Chapman, founder and chairman of JMA told the Sierra Sun, “The day-skier model doesn’t work for Homewood just like it isn’t working for a lot of small ski areas across the country, and so we’ve had to come up with a new model to sustain Homewood.”
That model would include member-only access to Homewood.
‘Bait and switch‘
The term bait and switch has been used by many community members when discussing the privatization of Homewood. Many members of the community won’t speak on the record, for fear Homewood won’t allow them to ski there as long as it’s a day-pass based resort.
Ted Peterson, whose family has owned a cabin in Homewood for 70 years, is part of the grassroots effort to keep Homewood public. He said he can’t imagine losing access to Homewood.
“I can’t really register it because it’s a concept that defies Lake Tahoe’s existence, the natural beauty of it all, to turn it into a private idea,” Peterson said, adding that Lake Tahoe should be accessible for all.
Keep Homewood Public is a community-member led group that has been active in pushing Placer County and TRPA to keep Homewood honest.
“Despite the 2011 Master Plan’s ‘central goal to restore Homewood as a key gathering center for Lake Tahoe’s West Shore,'” developers JMA Ventures, Mohari Hospitality, and Discovery Land Company want to eliminate 90% of the ‘Community Enhancement’ elements at Homewood,” the website states.
In a letter to TRPA in February 2023, Chapman defended his position, stating the current model for Homewood isn’t sustainable.
“Project opponents have used the term ‘private’ to suggest that Homewood should continue to offer subsidized skiing as a public amenity, ignoring the fact that Homewood is a private business, and that any changes from such status quo represent changes to the Master Plan. Our future membership passholders – whether homeowners or not – are equally members of the public and community,” the letter said.
“To reiterate, the new ski operating model we are proposing does not exclude the local community or individuals that do not own homes at Homewood.,” the letter stated.
Discovery Land Company is a developer that specializes in private, residential club communities and resorts. DLC is known for the Yellowstone Club in Montana, which according to Luxury Vacation Guide, “initial membership dues are $400,000, plus over $40,000 a year, and you will need to buy or build a luxe mountain home at $3 million or more, once you’ve been invited to join the club.”
Homewood is listed as one of their “Worlds” on their website but there are no details on pricing.
So while Chapman claims residents won’t be excluded from the club, 2022/23 season passes cost up to $600 which is a huge difference to $40,000 a year.
“The ski area will be open to the community every other week on select non-holiday, non-weekend days(s),” Chapman also added in his letter.
But for locals who can currently ski at Homewood anytime they want, that’s not good enough.
“Instead of “maintaining the heritage of a ski resort that can be enjoyed equally by local residents and visitors, Developers JMA Ventures, Mohari Hospitality, and Discovery Land Company are severely restricting public access to Homewood Mountain Resort to paid members, at not-yet-revealed cost,” the Keep Homewood Public website states.
There is no plan
Homewood has moved forward with construction on lots 3 and 5 of its development, with approval of Placer County. There have been minor disputes between the county and the developers regarding aesthetics but the core of that portion of the construction is following the approved master plan.
“Homewood Mountain Resort has been part of the West Shore and Lake Tahoe business community for over 60 years. We understand the significance the mountain has in the region as it is our home,” Homewood said in the statement to the Sun. “The Homewood Mountain Resort redevelopment project continues to conform to the approved master plan and does not privatize the mountain. The plan will deliver significant environmental benefits to the Tahoe Basin and will continue to support community access to the mountain during all seasons.”
And as far as plans for member-only access, they don’t exist.
“If it results in changes to what was approved by our board in 2011, we would need to know about it,” said Deputy Director for Tahoe, Placer County Crystal Jacobsen. “As they continue to build out their project, they will need to describe what each one of those lots is doing … to date, we haven’t received anything about what the programming looks like or if it’s changing.”
TRPA has been meeting with Homewood and advising them to submit a plan if privatization is their intention.
“This is such a rare situation in the basin that we really don’t know what the outcome of that process would be,” TRPA Public Information Officer Jeff Cowen told the Sun.
Meaning, even if a plan is submitted, it doesn’t mean it will be approved. Still, all this is speculative because a plan hasn’t been submitted.
“Our project is conforming to the approved master plan and there are no plans to privatize the mountain,” Homewood said to the Sun.
To track the project, visit https://www.trpa.gov/major-projects.
Keep Homewood Public is holding a sign-waving party from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 22, at 300 N Lake Blvd, Tahoe City.
To get involved, visit http://www.keephomewoodpublic.com.
The Sierra Sun is a sister publication of the Tribune.
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