Tensions mount over possible new town at Squaw
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Squaw Valley Ski Resort is opposing local efforts to create a new town there, known as Olympic Valley.
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts CEO Andy Wirth says they've watched and waited as a group of residents banned together and sought to create their own town. Squaw Resort would own almost half of the proposed area (40 percent), and Wirth says his company didn't want to appear as the 800 pound gorilla and override local sentiment.
"But now there are so many mistruths and mischaracterizations being made that we had to step up."
Wirth says much of the community is on their side and a town wouldn't be financially viable.
"They are suggesting that they can improve services. They have yet to even prove that they can sustain existing services. In fact, we feel, and many others think, that they have a very substantial gap."
Wirth has submitted a letter to the California agency in charge of incorporation (LAFCO). In order for the town to split from Placer, the County would need to be made whole. Wirth says the town will probably end up raising taxes on Squaw and residents to cover those costs.
"That is fiction. That is simply a scare tactic to make people frightened and vote against incorporation. There is no proof whatsoever of that."
Fred Ilfeld is with the coalition pushing for incorporation, Incorporate Olympic Valley (IOV). He says the California regulatory agency will do a financial analysis in the coming months and incorporation won't go forward if it's not revenue neutral. Half of the taxes from Squaw currently go to Placer County's general fund, he says, so why not concentrate that money locally, instead.
"To raise taxes in California, the people that are going to be taxed have to vote in favor of that tax. And already we are revenue rich, a golden goose for Placer County, a cash cow. We don't need those extra revenues."
Underlying these financial disputes, though, is the question of motivation. Ilfeld says the movement is entirely about local control and independence. It would give the more freedom to determine services. He rejects that it's a way to limit Squaw's current plans to develop its village.
"We are very well-aware that the current village is not adequate. We want to have some local say in what get's built."
"That's a disingenuous statement."
Again, that's Andy Wirth of Squaw Valley.
"Their cause and effort, it started with their interest to stop us. Recently, they have been trying to disguise that intent, but the whole cause and efforts starts with a very negative intent. It is that."
Wirth says a much more thorough financial analysis needs to be done. He believes a new town could make stop them from proceeding with their development, which he notes has been scaled back recently because of community input.
IOV still needs to raise enough money to bankroll the process, and it's using an online crowdfunding tool to do so.