Carson Valley skiers may have a new base camp on the Nevada side of Heavenly Mountain Resort.
Douglas County planning commissioners have approved a seven-acre planned development for the Stagecoach area, located off Kingsbury Grade.
"Heavenly is known for many things in the ski world, but it is not known for its quality of lodging and amenities," Heavenly spokesman Andrew Strain told planning commissioners last week. "The current Stagecoach Lodge has no guest services, no ski school and no first aid. Skiers have no need to stop or go near the buildings because they are terrible."
The two-phase development would demolish the existing Stagecoach Lodge and erect two new buildings. Phase one, to be completed by 2012, would see a new lodge with 21,393 square feet of mixed-use commercial and retail space, 55 residential units, and an underground parking facility.
Phase two, scheduled for 2014, would see a second building of 65 residential units, plus a separate 346-stall parking structure.
Strain described the Stagecoach area as a hole. He said the elevation drop from the top of the parcel to the bottom is 50 feet. The company requested a height variance to compensate for the steep terrain.
"We want to make good use of space vertically rather than using up the hillside," Strain said.
The variance would allow an increase in the maximum height of a mixed-use commercial building from 60 feet to 87 feet and an increase in the maximum height of a multifamily building from 35 feet to 75 feet and 8 inches.
"We've used the natural landscape to design the palate of the exterior," Strain said. "We are very proud of the architecture and believe it's going to be a real asset."
Strain said the high quality of the buildings would enhance the surrounding neighborhood.
"We want to make sure we are doing our part as good neighbors," he said.
Neighbors expressed concerns about increased traffic on windy, narrow roads. But a traffic impact study, reviewed by county staff, found that additional traffic would add only four seconds of delay time to existing congestion during peak days at the intersection of Tramway Drive and Kingsbury Grade.
Upper Kingsbury resident George Szendrey supported the project.
"I've been looking forward to this," he said.
Dan Garrison, vice president of The Ridge Tahoe, which sits directly above Stagecoach, called the proposal a "beautification of the area."
"We are very much in favor of this project," he said. "They truly have a destination resort in mind."
Planning commissioners agreed.
"The variances are reasonable. It's a great proposal and will be an improvement over the existing facilities," said commissioner Lawrence Howell.
The planning commission approved three other variances: One to allow tandem parking, and two that waive requirements for RV and commercial loading stalls.
"We have a hub and spoke approach," said Strain. "We have warehouses down at the Lake level and have our own small carriers stock the lodges. We don't want big trucks in the mountains."
Planning commissioner Mike Olson said an improved Stagecoach would strengthen the tourist economy.
"This project is long overdue," he said.