KINGS BEACH (CBS/AP) — The Placer County Planning Commission is recommending approval of a sweeping, controversial development plan at a California ski resort in the Sierra north of Lake Tahoe.
Nearly 100 people offered public comment before the panel voted 4-2 in Kings Beach Thursday night to approve the Squaw Valley expansion project and forward it to the county commission for final consideration.
If approved, Squaw Valley Real Estate would be allowed to add nearly 1,500 motel rooms, condos, time shares and retail space in Olympic Valley over the next 25 years at an estimated cost of up to $1 billion.
Plans also call for construction of a 90,000-square foot indoor adventure center and water park at the resort that hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.
Opponents say the project will generate too much pollution, traffic and noise.
Critics including California Attorney General Kamala Harris say the increased traffic also would threaten public safety by raising the risk of traffic accidents, especially in Squaw Valley where just one road connects the valley to Highway 89 south of Truckee.
“Because of the proximity of the proposed development to Lake Tahoe, we are concerned about the impacts the development will have within the Tahoe basin,” she said in a 15-page letter to the commission earlier this week. “We are particularly concerned with the project’s resulting increases in vehicular use and traffic within the basin.”
Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth said 90 percent of the redevelopment would happen on existing parking lots already zoned for development at the resort, which that has more than 170 trails and 16 bowls across 3,600 skiable acres.
Wirth said the new development is critical to re-establishing the resort as a “pre-eminent destination.” He cited Colorado-based Vail Resorts’ recent purchase of Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia as an example of the increasing efforts by major resort operators to remain competitive in a challenging industry.
The development will “position the resort as a true four-season destination, provide more year-round jobs, on-site affordable workforce housing, tens of millions of dollars in other benefits to our local community and assist in stabilizing the North Lake Tahoe economy,” he said in a statement Friday.
The Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Council representing local citizens voted against the project in May but the Placer County commission has the final say. It’s expected to consider the proposal this fall.
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