In 2003, the multi-million-dollar SilverTip Resort Village project in Fish Camp behind the post office was officially approved by the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors.
More than a decade later, work may actually begin next spring on the site, which will include a 137 unit hotel with 30 cabins, a restaurant, retailers, tennis courts, pool, three decorative ponds, large conference center plus four smaller centers, and employee apartments.
The resort is located on 47 acres at the intersection of Highway 41 and Fish Camp Lane, about 600 feet off the highway.
According to Fish Camp’s Town Plan, a portion of this property had already been zoned appropriate for resort/commercial development. PacificUS went through the approval process to expand the acreage size to meet the proposed project needs.
However, PacificUS was hit with years of delays. Once the project was approved, a lawsuit was filed challenging the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The county won the first round in superior court, before the appeal headed to the California Court of Appeals.
After a few years in litigation, two things happened: Mariposa County prevailed, and the original developer went bankrupt because of all the court costs. And so the proposed project sat, with the bank stepping in and taking possession of the land.
Towards the end of 2012, Far West Industries / Palm Springs Village -309, LLC purchased the property, and has been working diligently to get this project, with an estimated cost of $36 million, off the ground ever since. The company was issued the grading permit, Sept. 7, however, because the winter months are fast approaching, grading won’t begin until spring 2017.
The company will work on timber harvest operation (cutting down trees, reducing fuel load) over the next month.
“Some conditions must be met before grading, some before building and some are ongoing conditions for life of the project,” explained Mariposa County Planning Director Sarah Williams. “Because they worked hard to comply with all the county conditions, they were entitled to get their grading permit. However, that action has been appealed by the Yosemite Alpine Community Services District.”
The Board of Supervisors will hold a meeting, Nov. 22, to hear from both sides concerning what impact, if any, the easements and infrastructure will have for the district. The planning department has said this project will have no impact.
Located a few miles south of Yosemite’s Highway 41 entrance to the park, Fish Camp is a small community. The census puts the population at around 200, but there are only about 30 full-time residents. Because of this, those for and against the proposed resort, while vocal, wished to remain anonymous.
“I’m surprised this has been approved because that meadow has documented habitat for the Great Grey Owl and the Pacific Fisher, both endangered species,” one longtime Fish Camp resident said. “Both have been observed in this meadow, and still somehow, the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors chases dollars rather than complying with the Endangered Species Act.”
“We never thought they’d build on the meadow, on the wetlands, which is one of the biggest concerns,” another decades-long Fish Camp resident said. “The facility is too large. We just never thought it would get this far.”
“Most locals don’t want this, they don’t want the big business here,” one woman added.
However, there are those residents who give the project an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Some believe their property values will increase, and one woman called it “progress,” a much-needed improvement to the town.
“I think SilverTip is a great project. Anything will be better than what’s there now,” another resident said. “It’s going to happen, and if we don’t let them build there, that land will end up being a YARTS parking lot.”
Along with the buildings, other plans include an onsite wastewater disposal system, a water tank for domestic and fire usage, parking, roadways, pathways and utility line extensions, pedestrians or biking trails, and underground utility lines. Far West also plans on installing a new YARTS stop on the property.
PacificUS Real Estate Group, a company out of Pasadena, began pursuing this development project in 1999. Back in 2003, developer Ron Coleman told the Board of Supervisors that the project would bring $700,000 a year in tax revenues and produce 50-75 jobs. The mention of YARTS using the SilverTip area as a staging area was also mentioned, with public response extremely negative.
“Not any one person has final decision on projects like this,” Williams said. “There are multiple meetings, public input for the public to voice concerns and for those concerns to be addressed, reviews by the advisory and planning committees, as well as the board of supervisors. That way, both the decision makers and public are provided with adequate information to make an informed decision.”
When it comes to environmental concerns, Williams explained the highest level of environmental review was completed in 2003 when the board approved the projects EIR. And then, when the project was amended in 2010, additional environmental reviews required by CEQA were conducted, and certified by the board.
“Our role is to evaluate and make sure all the requirements are met when applications for projects come in,” project associate planner Steve Engfer said, “so by virtue of the fact that this project met the county general plan, Fish Camp’s specific plan, zoning ordinance requirements, as well as CEQA requirements, and gained approval, the SilverTip project was deemed suitable for that location through that public process.”
Despite phone messages left for the vice president of Far West, there was no response.
Extensive information on the SilverTip project can be viewed at mariposacounty.org/index.aspx?NID=1425.