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Those planning a residential development near Northstar California have decided against building a portion of the project in the Lake Tahoe Basin, saying controversy over the plan could imperil a broader conservation goal for nearby Martis Valley.

Mountainside Partners and landowner Sierra Pacific Industries will pursue plans to build 760 residential units and 6.6 acres of commercial development on the east side of the ridgeline overlooking Lake Tahoe and close to the Northstar ski resort. Plans to build 112 units on the ridgetop and within the boundary of the Tahoe Basin have been scrapped, said Blake Riva, senior partner for Mountainside Partners, formerly known as East West Partners.

"We have eliminated the Tahoe Basin component from the plan," Riva said. "We believe that will better position stakeholders to achieve success for the conservation vision for Martis Valley."

The change, supporters agreed, should preserve the integrity of the so-called "Martis Valley Opportunity," a pact agreed to in 2013 after years of discussions between landowners, developers and conservation groups regarding the future of forests and meadows between Lake Tahoe and Truckee near Northstar.

Under that agreement, Sierra Pacific Industries agreed to surrender rights to develop a portion of more than 6,300 acres of open private land located east of California 267. Keeping that land undeveloped would link some 50,000 acres of contiguous open space between Martis Valley and the Mount Rose Wilderness. Existing zoning could have allowed Sierra Pacific to seek approval to develop as many as 1,360 residential units in the area.

Instead, Mountainside Partners will pursue construction of 760 single-family or multifamily units west of the highway near Northstar, with the landowners retiring rights to build another 600 units.

Earlier plans for 112 of the 760 units on the west side of the highway to be built in the Tahoe Basin generated significant controversy, with Ann Nichols of the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance describing the idea in November as "urban sprawl in the forest."

Discussions led by Placer County Supervisors Jennifer Montgomery and Jack Duran helped result in the decision to cluster all development outside the Tahoe Basin closer to Northstar, according to a statement released by Montgomery.

Riva said the decision was based in part over concern that controversy over the Tahoe portion of the development would jeopardize the remainder of the project, including the long-sought conservation of Martis Valley land east of the highway.

"The conservation vision has always been our highest priority and the basin component was receiving a fair amount of attention," Riva said. "(Critics) could jeopardize the successful completion of those conservation efforts."

Tom Mooers, director of the conservationist organization Sierra Watch, called the decision to drop the Tahoe portion of the project a positive step toward needed conservation of Martis Valley land.

"The new direction is welcome news," Mooers said. "Sierra Watch has been working to secure a better blueprint for Martis Valley for 15 years, and this is another step in that direction."

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