Critics Attack Martis Valley Development

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Critics attacked a plan that could allow major new resorts in the Martis Valley with nearly 9,000 homes, apartments and condominiums as promoting urban sprawl that could ruin the scenic landscape south of Truckee.

Supporters, however, countered that changes envisioned through the 20-year growth strategy represent a rational, tempered plan that will benefit the Truckee-Tahoe economy.

Both perspectives were aired Monday night as the Placer County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the Martis Valley Community Plan, a long-debated and often contentious growth blueprint for more than 25,500 acres between Truckee and Northstar.

Supervisors delayed formal action on the plan until later this summer but heard the full gamut of opinion concerning what some describe as one of the largest development proposals ever considered in the Sierra.

"It poses a great threat to everything that is wonderful about this area,"said Northstar resident Carol Kurland.

But Keith Franke of Kings Beach said the plan represents a logical compromise from more widespread growth called for under a 1975 growth plan for Martis Valley, which would have allowed as many as 12,000 homes.

"The plan itself is not perfect, but it's reasonable,"Franke said.

Already endorsed by the Placer County Planning Commission, the plan would allow a maximum of 8,600 homes and other residential units in Martis Valley, an increase of more than 6,000 from existing numbers.

Growth would also include about 600,000 square feet of stores, restaurants and other commercial development, as well as several new golf courses.

Actual growth over the 20-year span would likely be far less than the amount allowed through the plan, said Fred Yeager, Placer County planning director. At most, Yeager said, the valley would probably have no more than 4,900 homes built by 2020.

Planners also said sufficient water exists to serve a maximum build-out demand of 24,000 acre-feet of water, with more than 30,000 acre-feet available from surface and groundwater supplies.

Critics said growth bringing more than 20,000 new residents would destroy the Martis Valley's rustic character as well as bring problems to nearby areas, including Lake Tahoe and Truckee.

David Kean of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club characterized proposed growth as"golf course sprawl"that would bring air pollution and potentially tap water supplies more than planners believe.

"The plan threatens to squander the incredible resources and unparalleled quality of life on pavement, traffic and smog,"said Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch, another conservationist group.

Officials from the town of Truckee also opposed the plan, saying it doesn't allow for sufficient affordable housing in a place with soaring rents and property values.

"Do not rely on Truckee to absorb your traffic and your employee housing,"Truckee Mayor Ted Owens told supervisors.

One supporter urged supervisors to back the plan, insisting environmental groups and other critics"will never be satisfied."