Tuesday, June 4, 2007 • Dyer EIR may be out before end of June

Construction of the Dyer Mountain Four Seasons Resort may actually start this year, if the environmental report is complete by July and lawsuits don’t further delay the project.

“We are hoping, really hoping that the final (Dyer Mountain Resort) EIR will be published in June,” consultant Cathleen Spence-Wells said last week.

In response, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors voted to receive and discuss a draft 20-year development agreement, necessary to implement the project, by June 15.

“I want the public to know that the board is ready to consider and act, and we have been for a long time,” Chapman said, making the motion to receive the development agreement on June 15.

Spence-Wells, a principal at North Fork Associates, of Auburn, the consultant Lassen County hired to help prepare the Environmental Impact Report for the resort in Westwood, told the board the EIR will include six volumes, nine sections and will be almost two-feet thick.

During the Tuesday, May 29 joint workshop of the Lassen County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, Spence-Wells told both boards all participants would try to release the EIR by June 27. Those working on the document include North Fork Associates, Lassen County’s special counsel for Dyer Mountain Richard L. Crabtree and developer Dyer Mountain Associates.

The board of supervisors hired Crabtree, at least in part, because the conservation group Sierra Watch has announced plans to file a lawsuit against the resort. Sierra Watch was formed when homeowners and residents learned about proposed plans to develop Tahoe’s Martis Valley with thousands of new resort homes.

Crabtree successfully negotiated a settlement agreement allowing the development to go forward

Spence-Wells said the final document includes a detailed response to every comment received.

Public hearing July 11
The planning commission set a July 11 public hearing to receive comments on the final draft of the EIR and make recommendations to the board of supervisors, which may approve the final EIR in August, said District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman. Then the board may consider a proposed parcel map that subdivides the 6,780-acre property into 13 lots.

“I’ve spent a lot of blood, sweat and tears on it; I hope you do read every page,” Spence-Wells said.

She said each of the 13 lots, ranging in size from 40 to 2,935 acres, may have different developers. Crabtree said the developer agreement will ensure proper planning by each developer and is a tool the county uses to ensure mitigation requirements are met.

The development concept plan evaluated in the EIR has not changed since the draft EIR was published in April 2005. It proposed to construct 4,104 residential units, more than 600,000 square feet of commercial, retail, support and common uses, three golf courses on 300 acres and a 600-acres ski area.

North Fork needs just one piece of information from DMA to finish the final draft of the EIR.

“We want probably more than anyone else in this room to get the document published, Spence-Wells said.

The EIR now inclues plans for wastewater treatment.

“There is no more of the spraying of the effluent on the forest that was originally proposed,” she said, adding the 430-acre Deerheart Meadows “will remain in permanent open space.”

Assistant Community Development Director Joe Bertotti said Dyer Mountain is the first major resort planned since the development of the California Environmental Quality Act, the first development agreement for a voter-approved project and the first project using environmental review guidelines amended with peer review

Bertotti said part of the reason for the delay in the project was a funding slow down DMA experienced. Dyer Mountain Associates attorney Bill Abbott, agreed.

Bertotti also said the county will not be in charge of municipal services, such as water, sewer and road maintenance. The community development staff recommended forming a community services district to provide the services.

The initiative county voters approved in 2000 zoned as mountain resort the area around Walker Lake, also know as Mountain Meadow Reservoir. Since the zoning was adopted by initiative, it can only be changed by initiative; voters put it in place, only voters can change it, Crabtree said.

In answer to complaints about the long delay in action to build the resort, County Administrative Officer John Ketelsen said seven years is quick in terms of ski resort development.

However, the initiative did allow the board to make changes in seven years, if no ski runs are in place by November. The development agreement, which is recorded and remains in force no matter who owns the land, will permanently settle how the land may be used.

Each time a Dyer Mountain resort developer seeks a building permit, the planning commission will hold public hearings on environmental reports before approval pursuant to the Map Act ordinance, Bertotti said. Board members expressed concern about how thousands of people will escape from the resort in case of a major wildland fire.

DMA’s Nick Ceaglio said construction will start this year if the final EIR is approved soon and DMA can get the necessary permits and entitlements, along with a timber harvest plan. He added entities that have been hovering for years will be much more likely to commit money when DMA has a final EIR in hand.