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A coalition of Sierra conservationists filed an appeal last week to overturn approvals of the troubled Dyer Mountain development proposal, according to a press release from Mountain Meadows Conservancy.
“Today’s action is the next step in our long-term commitment to defend Dyer Mountain from the biggest development proposal in the Northern Sierra,” said Steve Robinson of Lassen County-based Mountain Meadows Conservancy.
As the project faces more legal troubles, the clock is also ticking on its mounting tax debt. Dyer Mountain landowners owe Lassen County more than $1.7 million — and counting — in back taxes.
Would-be developer Dyer Mountain Associates (DMA) began pursuing a resort project in Lassen County in 1999, proposing a plan for 4,000 new homes, three golf courses and a ski resort on 7,000 acres of undeveloped forest and meadow.
Opponents called the project “the poster child of irresponsible planning” due to its lack of infrastructure and its remote, rural location.
Primary access to the property is down a dirt road and across a one-lane bridge over the Hamilton Branch of the Feather River.
Out of scale with its rural surroundings, say opponents, the project would increase the population of Lassen County by 116 percent.
Conservationists quickly countered with a long-term campaign to protect the property — highlighting its remote forests, bald eagle habitat, high Sierra meadows and Native American cultural resources.
“Dyer Mountain is where we decide the most basic question facing the Sierra Nevada,” said Tom Mooers of Sierra Watch. “Do we want to subdivide and pave our last great places with misguided development schemes, or protect our natural legacy for future generations?”
Developers had promised to open by November 2007, but the project became mired in bankruptcy, foreclosure and debt. The ownership group has been subject to at least five lawsuits and two court orders.
In 2008, landowners filed for bankruptcy, and lenders subsequently foreclosed on the property. Ownership passed through the Cayman Islands, and the property eventually landed in the hands of Dyer Management LLC of Delaware.
As the tax bill mounted, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors asked for a written plan for repayment back in 2009. In 2010, the new landowners bluntly replied that they had no such plan, writing, “Dyer Management intends to bring the county current with respect to outstanding property taxes at such point in time in which new financing becomes available at reasonable commercial terms.”
Even if the landowner is unwilling to provide a timetable for repayment, the tax debt clock is ticking. In 2013, Lassen County can assume control — and sell — the property itself.
Meanwhile, the project passed through the planning and environmental review process. After Lassen County signed off on a development plan in September 2007, Sierra Club and Sierra Watch joined Mountain Meadows Conservancy in suing to overturn approvals of the project.
After a bankruptcy-related stay on any court action, their case against Dyer Mountain resumed in 2010. In a decision dated Dec. 30, 2010, Lassen County Superior Court denied the conservationists’ request and upheld Lassen County’s 2007 approvals.
The conservation groups filed their notice April 12 to appeal that decision. They’ll assemble their legal arguments in a more detailed brief in the months ahead. Their case will contend that the county’s review of the project violated core principles of state environmental law, dismissing key potential impacts on population growth, traffic and other issues.
“This project never made any sense — even before the resort real estate market collapsed,” said Robinson. “We look forward to getting everyone to the table to come up with a resolution that works for Lassen County and for the land itself.”
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