Bear Valley expansion approved

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat

The addition of more than 300 condominiums, a new lodge, a chair lift from the village to the mountaintop and an outdoor amphitheater in Bear Valley got an official nod from Alpine County supervisors on Dec. 18.

The good news for Bear Valley developers came less than a week after Twain Harte-based environmental group Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center announced it had withdrawn an appeal to the U.S. Forest Service objecting to approval of expanded ski area operations at the Highway 4 resort.

Bear Valley Mountain Resort agreed to additional mitigation measures for increased greenhouse gas emissions, and the Bear Valley Water District provided documentation that it could adequately serve the project's sewer needs, leading to the withdrawal.

Sewer capacity again became the largest issue in regard to the residential expansion, Bear Valley managing partner Greg Finch, traveling from Colorado, acknowledged during a public hearing held in Markleeville prior to the vote.

"This has been a long and really painful process, for (supervisors) as well as for us," Finch said, but "there is a process in place that could bring us enough connections to finish."

Much of the district's work to determine its capacity was completed last spring, said Alpine County Director of Community Development Brian Peters.

County processing of the project had been tabled since March 2010 while an addendum to its environmental impact report was completed. The expansion plan was essentially altered to match the "no South Village alternative" included in the original document, which eliminates a 148-unit parking structure and 50-bed employee housing unit from the project.

Accommodations for employees remain a requirement for final completion of the expansion but will need to be addressed elsewhere.

What remains is "a comprehensive plan we all feel comfortable with … and we wholeheartedly endorse (it) moving forward," said Bear Valley Water District President Jim Bissell.

The only criticism offered during the hearing came from Carpenters Union Local 1789 representative Tim Litton, who said the union still had outstanding concerns about the sewer capacity, copper levels in the wastewater, inadequate traffic circulation plans and discussion of impacts from the amphitheater.

However, Litton said the union will not take legal action to halt the project but "will be closely monitoring the project" as it moves forward.

Prior to the unanimous vote in favor of the project, Alpine County Supervisor Terry Woodrow told the board about 140 letters in support of the project had been received by county government compared with "less than a handful" in opposition.

Woodrow said the true economic value of Bear Valley to the region became painfully apparent last winter when light snows meant below-average visits to the mountain.

"This is very important to Bear Valley. Not just Bear Valley but all of Alpine County and the Highway 4 corridor," she said.

Bear Valley spokeswoman Rosie Sundell had no further comment on the development when reached Wednesday but said the resort will have an announcement in about three weeks.

The Union Democrat
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