In 2005, Sierra Watch, Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, and the real estate and mountain operations entities associated with Northstar California Resort, came to an agreement with regard to the development of the Northstar Highlands project and certain other approved, proposed or contemplated development projects at the ski resort.
This agreement came about after environmental organizations legally challenged Placer County's approval of the Martis Valley Community Plan update in 2003. Local residents and conservationists from around the state expressed strong concerns over the potential environmental, economic and social impacts related to the scale of development in the region and the numerous development proposals that were taking shape, including those from Northstar.
In June 2005, a Placer County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the environmental groups in their challenge of the community plan update. Seeking an alternative to ongoing litigation, regional and local stakeholders joined with the developers in negotiations over proposed developments and conservation priorities that led to a collaborative blueprint for the future of the region. Community benefits fees, held and administered by the Truckee Donner Land Trust, are a key part of that blueprint. They are being used to support acquisitions of important open space lands, restore threatened habitat, and support workforce housing and other community benefits in the Martis Valley region.
In particular, Northstar established a transfer fee whereby 0.5 percent of the initial retail sales and all subsequent retail transfers of residential property at the Highlands, Retreat and Porcupine Hill will go to the Truckee Donner Land Trust and will be utilized toward the acquisition of lands in the Greater Martis Valley for the purpose of preserving or managing open space. (After 25 years, the transfer fee will be reduced to .25 percent and remain in perpetuity.)
In addition, Northstar also agreed to create the Northstar Habitat Management Plan which was completed in 2009.