(Full disclosure: The author is an Alpine Meadows resident.)
In the five months since the push to incorporate Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows began, the movement has changed its raison d’être and gained momentum — forming a nonprofit organization, raising money, and creating a petition to get the incorporation question on the ballot. The group now faces its next hurdle — taking its case for incorporation to Alpine residents, who seem split on the issue.
INCHING TOWARDS INCORPORATION
The Squaw Alpine Association was officially formed in early April. So far, it has raised $16,000 of the estimated $100,000 it needs for the incorporation process. The organization’s mission, according to its website, is to “preserve the integrity and spirit of our mountain communities; to pursue incorporation as a means to greater self determination.”
Originally, the group had come up with the idea of incorporation as a way to fight Squaw Valley Resort’s development plans. But Peter Schweitzer, Squaw Alpine Association chairman, said the reason for incorporation morphed as the group’s goals became more defined.
“Nobody is saying nothing should get built,” he said. “We’re saying, let the voters decide. What the voters say is reasonable is what we are pushing for.”
Since the ski area will most likely succeed in getting some portion of its development built — the land is privately owned and the project falls within the purview of Squaw Valley’s 1983 community plan — Schweitzer argues that incorporation will help keep tax dollars here rather than going to Auburn.
“If this is built, it will be a massive economic value,” he said. “Why shouldn’t that go to the town? Why shouldn’t the residents control the taxes?”
Although the financial analysis is not complete, the association estimates that the two valleys generate around $20 million a year in property, sales, and transit occupancy tax, while the cost of running the town would be around $3 million. The town would contract with Placer County to provide certain services like animal control, police, and health and human services, while taking over others, like snow removal. The only land the town would own would be the Squaw Valley Park.
The proposed town would follow the boundaries of the Squaw Valley Public Service District (SVPSD) and the Alpine Springs County Water District (ASCWD), although the town would not absorb or merge the two special districts.
“We are not interested in getting into jurisdictional disputes,” said Squaw Alpine Association Board member Fred Ilfeld.
ARE APLINE RESIDENTS ON BOARD?
The Squaw Alpine Association has been making the rounds of community meetings to inform the public about its mission. The association has presented to the SVPSD, Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Council, First Tuesday Breakfast Club in Tahoe City, ASCWD, and is scheduled to speak to the Squaw Valley Property Owners Association tomorrow and Good Morning Truckee in August. But its main focus right now is on Alpine. The association must gauge Alpine residents’ interest in becoming part of a new town before circulating the petition to put the issue on the ballot. (The Placer County Local Agency Formation Commission requires that 25 percent of registered voters sign the petition. That means around 200 Squaw and Alpine residents.) The Squaw Alpine Association has already sent out a mailer and plans on contacting Alpine Meadows registered voters by phone and going door-to-door in the next few weeks.
Troy Caldwell, owner of White Wolf in Alpine Meadows, the property that will most likely serve as the interconnect between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts, is in favor of incorporation.
“It’s definitely a plus for sure,” he said. “Being able to control tax dollars is a cool thing. We are struggling with our government. To get the issue on the ballot and let people think about it makes sense. I think we can do better.”
But not everyone is sold on incorporation. Caldwell said his informal polling of neighbors has shown about a 50-50 split. He said people are concerned that Squaw would dominate Alpine and go after its water.
Virginia Quinan, president of the Alpine Springs County Water District Board, said she is “violently opposed” to incorporation.
“We have three potential developments in Alpine, and they are in control,” she said. “It would not be to our advantage to incorporate with Squaw.”
Glenn Spiller, who has lived in Alpine for 20 years and is the only Alpine resident on the seven-member Squaw Alpine Association Board, feels that more of his neighbors will come around once they are better educated on the issue.
“The more you talk to people about the issues, the more they come on board,” he said. “We’d all like to have some voice in the decision-making.”
But if it becomes clear that the majority of Alpine voters are not interested in being part of the town, then incorporation will proceed without them. The minimum number of registered voters required to incorporate is 500, and Squaw squeaks by with 563.
“The purpose of Alpine is that there is a natural town boundary,” said Ilfeld. “We feel the interests [of the two valleys] are very close, they share a common destiny with the same major employer in both valleys.”
If Alpine residents reject incorporation, then the Squaw Alpine Association would have to go back to the drawing board not only for a new name, but for the names it has come up with for the proposed town: Squaw Alpine, Olympic Valleys, and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.
The Squaw Alpine Association is holding an informational meeting about incorporation on Tuesday, May 28, 7 to 10 p.m., at the Squaw Valley Public Service District. Info: squawalpineassoc.org