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Plan for luxury homes on ridge overlooking Lake Tahoe withdrawn

The Martis Valley area near Truckee is a mixture of sagebrush, wetlands and coniferous forests. The potential developers of the Martis Valley West Project have agreed to cluster all the project’s development within the valley.
The Martis Valley area near Truckee is a mixture of sagebrush, wetlands and coniferous forests. The potential developers of the Martis Valley West Project have agreed to cluster all the project’s development within the valley. Sacramento Bee file

A controversial proposal to build 112 luxury homes in a 112-acre gated community on a ridge overlooking Lake Tahoe, on land currently zoned for forest and conservation, has been withdrawn.

On a Brockway Summit ridge about 5 miles from the Northstar California resort, the development would have been on forested land now used for backcountry recreation and access to the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Instead, the potential developers of the Martis Valley West Project have agreed to cluster all the project’s development within the Martis Valley, Placer County officials announced Tuesday.

A campground is now being considered by the developers on the basin portion of the property.

The agreement was reached after discussions between two county supervisors, four conservation groups and the applicants, landowner Sierra Pacific Industries and its development partner Mountainside Partners – formerly East West Partners.

As agreed in 2013 by the applicants and conservation groups Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation, development rights for 760 residences and 6.6 acres of commercial buildings will be transferred from the east side of Highway 267 to the west side, on land adjacent to Northstar.

An additional potential 600 units will be retired. The project still proposes to protect 6,376 acres on the east side as permanent conservation land, connecting 50,000 acres of contiguous open space in the valley, extending to the Mount Rose Wilderness.

Truckee-based Mountain Area Preservation was among those opposed to shifting some of the proposed development to the Tahoe basin ridge, said Alexis Ollar, its executive director.

The proposed shift “was inconsistent with our agreement and really jeopardized future conservation in Martis Valley,” she said.

With the removal of that application, “we can regain focus and concentrate on the conservation/development proposal that was originally anticipated,” she said.

“We feel that, with good planning and environmental mitigation for the housing proposal on the west side, we can further our conservation efforts for the protection of habitat and open space in the eastern Martis Valley watershed,” Ollar said.

It’s “a compromise that creates a win-win-win outcome for all involved,” said Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who represents the county’s portion of Lake Tahoe and Martis Valley, in a statement.

“The conservation community benefits by protecting 6,376 acres of undeveloped land,” Montgomery said. “The basin wins through everyone’s adherence to its Regional Plan Update. And the project proponents win by creating a development proposal consistent with planning and zoning in and out of the basin.”

Concerns about the basin proposal expressed by Montgomery, many conservation groups and members of the public centered on the size of the project, its visibility from north Lake Tahoe communities and precedent-setting that could compromise the basin’s Regional Plan Update.

Because the basin land now will be separated from the Martis Valley West Project, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency approval will not be required for the current project, said Robert Miller, Placer County’s public information officer.

Any future basin projects proposed on the land would require agency and county approvals, but would not be subject to the 2013 agreement between the applicants and their conservation partners, Miller said.

That agreement spells out density transfer, development reduction and conservation components in the Martis Valley.

Miller said the applicants will work with the agency to more define the boundary line for the Tahoe basin.

Blake Riva, a senior partner with East West Partners and head of its Tahoe-area developments, said the company is considering building a campground on the ridge property.

“We’ve been strongly encouraged by stakeholders, agencies and members of the public (to build a campground),” Riva said, “and we think it’s an interesting option. There are no campgrounds in that area and it’s a permissible use, consistent with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s recently approved Regional Plan Update.”

More information on any future plans for the basin property will be available in the next few weeks, Riva said.

Meanwhile, a draft environmental impact report is being prepared for the revised Martis Valley West development.

It should be completed this spring and public hearings will be scheduled at that time, said Paul Thompson, assistant director of the county’s Community Development Department.

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