A regulatory issue has recently generated a chain of events which has made a hardship to property owners, a homeowners association and neighborhood relationships. When the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency was allowed bi-state jurisdiction in 1972 to provide a “planning function” in the Tahoe basin, its original regional plan allowed for a minimum land coverage of 2,600 square feet for every valid, subdivided piece of real estate in existence at that time. Without that assurance, neither the citizens of Lake Tahoe nor the governments of California or Nevada would have approved the Bi-state Compact.
The agency was relying on the rather minor report from 1974 titled “Land-Capability Classification of the Lake Tahoe Basin, California-Nevada; A Guide for Planning” done by a U.S. Forest Service employee named Robert G. Bailey to create an architecture for improving the water quality of Lake Tahoe. This report, as acknowledged by the author, was never meant to provide individual coverages for small parcels of land, but to control major commercial sites involving many acres. This report was by one individual without any scientific evaluations and became the source for 40 years of property rights abuses by regional governments without any proven environmental results.
Through the years involving one agency after the other, including CTRPA, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and TRPA, individual land coverage regulations have reduced the building footprint to less than 1,100 square feet on smaller parcels. This has caused an undue hardship on the homeowner association, which has rules that require a two-car garage for every property, plus a minimum of 1,500 square feet of living area. This cannot be accomplished with the restrictions placed on the property owners by the bureaucracy. Our association has many of these smaller lots that fall under this land grab by the agency, diminishing the value and utility of their property. This also provides a quandary for the homeowners association in having to compromise its values due to the arbitrary application of an unproven land coverage “environmental theory.”
Most of the current Tahoe residents moved here for the wonderful environment that it offers for family life and do not mind making legitimate sacrifices for true environmental causes. However, the application of power by monolithic government entities who never have to prove the science of their projects is the reason for the non-acceptance of these governments.
The 9,000 truckload hole-in-the-ground in Cove East epitomizes the waste and ineffectiveness of the controlling entities who need these projects to justify their existence. When confronted by evidence showing that there would be less than two bags full of nitrogen removal caused by this marsh project by the Tahoe Conservancy, they did not comment but went ahead with the project at a cost of approximately $10 million to the state.
Now they want to tear up the Lake Tahoe Golf Course and either eliminate half of it or replace nine holes in a totally different area at a cost of millions to the state, which doesn’t even have the money to support the normal functions of government. I have been a local critic of both local and regional governments when they step out of line and waste the citizens’ hard-earned money.
Now, we are hearing of a scheme to allow property owners to get some of the land coverage back (which was stolen from them by the TRPA in the first place) by being able to add to a deck or walkway to enhance their property if they do their “BMPs” (a program which the agency has only been able to enforce when someone has to get an approval of a project from the agency). Individual BMPs were recently commented on by the head of TRPA as being implemented as a matter of policy, not of science.
I hope this editorial will inspire someone else to pick up the torch and just say “no” to all individuals, groups or governments that are leaching off of the toil of others.
Jim Morris is a Tahoe Keys Property Rights Advocate.