Placer County Planning Commission recommends against Martis Valley West Project

Published on July 07, 2016

The Placer County Planning Commission has voted to recommend denial of the Martis Valley West Parcel Specific Plan and the certification of the project environmental impact report. The project now goes to the board of supervisors.

The vote came during a continuation today of the commission’s June 9 meeting to consider the project. After extensive public testimony at the June 9 meeting, the commission agreed to continue their consideration of the project at a follow-up meeting and requested more information from county staff about the potential effects of the project on Lake Tahoe water quality, traffic and emergency evacuation procedures.

County staff prepared a supplemental report to address questions raised by the commission summarizing findings from the project’s environmental impact report about efforts to limit or avoid impacts to traffic, water and air quality and the spread of invasive species, and continue to allow for the safe evacuation of the Lake Tahoe Basin and Martis Valley in an emergency.

After significant public comment, commissioners expressed continuing concerns about the traffic and evacuation plans in recommending their denial of the project, with a 5-2 vote.

The Martis Valley West project proposes to build 760 residences and 6.6 acres of neighborhood-serving commercial business near the existing Northstar Village development between Truckee and Lake Tahoe. In order to build at that location, the project proposes to give up the allowable density of 1,360 residences on a larger parcel across state Route 267 (known as the east parcel), and instead put that 6,373 acres of land under permanent open space preservation. That would permanently preserve approximately 25 percent of the Martis Valley’s total land area. Since the Martis Valley West Project only calls for 760 residences, it results in an overall lower density than is allowed by the Martis Valley Community Plan by 600 homes.

Addressing the project’s potential water quality impacts to Lake Tahoe, staff noted that the largest source of sediment runoff into Tahoe is urban stormwater in the Tahoe basin; with the proposed development outside of the Tahoe Basin and the natural topography which runs towards the Martis Valley floor, runoff from the project would not create an impact to Lake Tahoe. While additional development could increase traffic, nitrogen in the resulting emissions would not travel into the basin, staff explained, and therefore would not have an effect on algae growth in the lake.

Speaking to concerns about more boats in the area contributing to the spread of invasive species, staff explained that all boats must be inspected before they enter Lake Tahoe, so additional boat traffic would not pose an increased risk.

Representatives from the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Emergency Services, California Highway Patrol and the United States Forest Service addressed the commission on the effects of more residents on evacuation procedures in an emergency.

Noting that evacuation plans for the region are based on a larger planned population density in Martis Valley than the project would achieve, county staff reported that effects of adding the homes on the evacuation in the region overall would be minimal.

“There’s no question in my mind that first responders can pull off an evacuation of any area in the basin if they were called to do so,” said John McEldowney, program manager for the Placer County Office of Emergency Services. “I’m not saying it’s going to go perfectly, but I have full confidence in our first responders to get it done.”

Once the date and location for the board of supervisors meeting is set, that information will be widely shared with the public.