Most of Squaw Valley Stables’ rickety corrals, barn, and cabins came with the land in 1982, when Swiss immigrant Eric Pavel bought the property. The stables’ history goes back even farther than that, to the 1930s, when legendary cowboy Bud Jones ran ranch stables and a pack station in Squaw. Today, the rundown stables serve as a reminder of a bygone time, and are the oldest structures surrounding the meadow — a sweeping field with tall grass and a winding creek that forms the foreground of Squaw Valley’s granite peaks.

The Pavels shuttered the stables six years ago due to declining profits after horse trails were lost when the Resort at Squaw Creek golf course was built. Gone are the 50 horses that once filled the stables’ 4 acres at the business’s peak. With the stables closed up and the old buildings in decline, Eric’s son Mike wants to improve the property and make money off the land again. Although he has scaled back his original project and no longer wants to sell portions of the property, he could still face some hurdles: the Squaw Valley General Plan’s restriction of building on the meadow, and a wariness among residents who fear overdevelopment of the valley floor in the midst of KSL’s proposal to quadruple the size of the Squaw Valley village.

Mike Pavel grew up at the Squaw Valley Stables, which has a home and a caretaker’s residence on the property, and went on to manage the stables for 10 years before leaving to run his own businesses, Mountain Mike Sports and Tahoe Sailing Charters. His dream is to tear down the old residences and build new homes for himself and his two sons. 

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“I want it to be a legacy for myself and my sons, and to live on the land,” Mike said.

Originally, Mike had proposed building the Squaw Valley Ranch Estates, consisting of eight lots — four of which he would keep for himself and his family, and the other four he would sell. This would have required a zoning change from forest recreation to residential. But after discussions with his sons, who would like the entire property maintained to hold weddings and other events, Mike nixed his first idea. He is now considering a zoning change request for only half the property to build homes for just his family; the other half would remain forest recreation for use as an events area, which could possibly include a six-bedroom lodge for weddings and corporate retreats.

“I didn’t want to sell half the property myself, and my sons want to do something with the property,” he said. “Ideally, if I can swing the financial aspect, I would rezone part of the property to build our own homes, and an area to host events.”

But Mike admits that the possibility of having to sell a few lots to finance his project remains a reality. He estimates that the price tag to put in new infrastructure, including a road and possibly moving the sewer line, and to pay for permits and a zoning change, could cost up to $1 million.

Even though Mike is requesting a zoning change for only half the land, he may still run up against problems due to wording in the 1983 Squaw Valley General Plan, which Mike’s father helped draft as a member of the Squaw Valley Municipal Advisory Council. The plan states: “Generally, this area [the meadow] should be retained in a natural condition with activity and development limited to uses which presently exist in the area …. No further encroachments of buildings, impervious surfaces, or other development activity … should occur.”

“The General Plan is pretty clear on what the intention is of forest recreation and the meadow,” said Steve Kastan, Tahoe field representative for Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery. “It says the meadow should be preserved.”

Kastan said he believes that Mike Pavel’s new plan will be more palatable for residents than the Squaw Valley Ranch Estates.

“In my opinion, it’s a lot more tenable with the community,” he said. “It’s a better scenario than a subdivision. The fact is that building in the meadow is upsetting to a lot of people.”

But Mike’s request for a zoning change, even for half his property, comes at a time when KSL is also asking for a zoning change for part of its village expansion project. Some wonder if the timing could hurt his chances to get the project through.

“I personally think it’s a terrible time; people are so worried about what will happen with the village,” said John Shanser, a member of the Friends of Squaw Valley, about the original Squaw Valley Ranch Estates project. 

But as with any project bordering the Squaw Valley meadow, the stables’ development holds the possibility of public debate.

“I’d be happy if we could avoid a big controversy on this,” Kastan said.

Author

  • Melissa Siig

    Melissa Siig ditched international politics in Washington, D.C. in 2001 to move to Tahoe, where she quickly found her true calling — journalism. She has written for regional and national publications, and enjoys writing about community issues and quirky human interest stories. When not at her keyboard, she is busy wrangling her three children, co-running Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema, or playing outside.

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