Final judgment: Olympic Valley development scrapped, but new plan could be submitted this year

OLYMPIC VALLEY, CA.A California court last week issued its final judgment in the long-running fight against massive Olympic Valley development, but the developer is working to resolve the issues and could submit an adjusted plan in the fall.

The court ordered all project approvals rescinded, capping a victory for Sierra Watch and the grassroots movement to protect the alpine valley formerly known as Squaw Valley.

Sierra Watch recently won an 11-year battle.
Furnished / Tahoe Room

“We did it,” said Tom Mooers, executive director of Sierra Watch. “It has taken 11 years of commitment and dedication to prove how we can combine our passion for the Sierra into a successful movement to protect the mountains we love.”

Would-be developers Alterra Mountain Company, then acting as KSL Capital Partners, bought the Tahoe ski resort formerly known as Squaw Valley and surrounding land in 2010. Within a year, they asked Placer County development rights to remake the area with a series of high-rise condominiums, a 90,000 square foot indoor water park – as wide as a Walmart and nearly three times taller, and a roller coaster.

A 2013 scale model of the proposed development in the Tahoe Olympic Valley.
Furnished / Tahoe Room

“The Alterra project felt like a good time – in Vegas,” Mooers said. “But didn’t belong in the Tahoe Mountains.”

Sierra Watch responded by creating a grassroots movement under the Keep Squaw True banner. Thousands of volunteers got involved. Hundreds of people spoke at public hearings.

In November 2016, the Placer County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the project. A month later, Sierra Watch filed its first legal challenges, arguing that the Placer County approvals violated state planning laws.

Last year, the Third District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of conservationists, citing impacts to Lake Tahoe, fire hazards, noise and traffic. Last week’s doomsday codifies this decision.

The judgment stated that “the county committed a detrimental abuse of power by failing to comply with the CEQA when it approved the project and certified the EIR.

Judgment in this case is therefore rendered in favor of the claimant Sierra Watch,” the five-page document continues. “The County shall rescind and rescind its approval of the project, including the Specific Plan, Development Agreement, Provisional Large Lot Acquisition Subdivision Map, Amendments to the Squaw Valley General Plan and Ordinance on land use, zoning change, development standards, and related resolutions and ordinances… adoption of related findings of fact, statement of overriding considerations, and mitigation measures monitoring report schedule; and certification of the EIR.

After nearly six years in court, the legal fight is over.

“While the superior court initially determined that Placer County was in compliance with California’s environmental quality law, in December 2021, the opinion of the Third District Court of Appeals struck down portions of the Superior Court’s decision and ordered the court to enter a new judgment,” a statement from Palisades Tahoe said. “The judgment rendered Thursday by the Superior Court is procedural and complies with the directives of the Court of Appeal. Under the CEQA, it is the county — not the courts — that ultimately decides whether the previously approved project will go ahead. The station team is currently working with county staff to resolve the identified issues and resubmit the plan for public comment on issues raised by the Court of Appeals this fall.

According to Sierra Watch’s press release, Alterra claimed it was committed to reviving its failed proposal and trying again for a new round of approvals. At a meeting at City Hall in Olympic Valley, they claimed there was “not enough to do” in Tahoe and would seek a new set of rights “sometime this year. next”.

However, the road to approvals that Alterra first embarked on in 2011 has only gotten worse – as issues and impacts, such as wildfire risk and lack of housing, which encouraged the initial opposition became more acute.

“Our hope is that Alterra will abandon its reckless proposal and come to the table to work together on a development that respects the shared values ​​of Tahoe Sierra,” Sierra Watch’s Mooers said. “But our love of the mountains is timeless. And if it takes another 11 years of working together to defend Tahoe, we’ll be there every step of the way.

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