My Turn: Another perspective on Tahoe Basin Area Plan Process
April 25, 2013
I do my best to attend most meetings related to the Tahoe Basin Area Plan process. Most recently (April 9) I gave public testimony in Auburn to the Placer County Board of Supervisors.
There was a series of opinion pieces in Sierra Sun from Tahoe City Plan team member Marguerite Sprague which indicated a positive area plan process.
I was in attendance with three other members of the public that voiced concerns about the progress and process unfolding with this particular team, and therefore these comments serve as a rebuttal to her article.
The desired height is a contentious issue. One another note, certain types of zoning on the Truckee River that were requested to be permissible in an Area Plan are outright prohibited with good reason. An example is changing allowed uses to permit new petroleum storage facilities down river, rather than recognizing grandfathered uses without unnecessarily increasing the intensity of a use that poses a threat to water quality.
At the March 27 TRPA Governing Board meeting I asked Arlo Stockham the staff member assigned to represent TRPA why he didn't intercede during that discussion and inform the community members better.
He responded that it was just visioning, and he wanted to encourage brainstorming by team members. At this juncture all the Area Plan Teams are determining "actual" zoning requirements.
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This brings me to the crux of process issues. There remains a lot of confusion between visioning exercises and the Placer County Tahoe Basin Area Plan team processes that have been running concurrently.
This confusion is added to by the many varied opinions among those participating in the visioning exercises. The main issue at every Town Hall meeting has been the disconnect between resident's desires for a low profile town and the TCPUD/Resort Assn. visioning for 5-6 story buildings.
The Tahoe City PUD and NLT Resort Association's Tahoe City Vision was way out of the gate before any interested locals had the opportunity to comment, let alone understand where and from whom the "Vision" came from.. The TCPUD and NLT Resort Assn. "Vision" group was made up of mostly business folks and political players — not Joe public types.
In fact, I asked how much was spent by the Resort Assn. from TOT tax dollars to develop this Vision? No answer has been forthcoming.
Now, Kings Beach has been slated for a three day charrette (dates TBD) which may sound a lot like the Pathway 2007 process, but is clearly not. The North Tahoe East team has spent over 30 hours compiling data and resolving issues only to have this "new" visioning process that will now include the Conservancy, Fire Dept., PUD, etc. forced upon the public.
Although we hear claims that additional stakeholder input is desired, nothing has prevented stakeholder input up until now, and additional public input has been encouraged at Town Hall meetings, during team meetings, etc.
Rather the charrette seems to be pushing an agenda onto the public by not allowing the actual Area Plan team comprised of nine members previously selected to represent business, neighborhood and environmental interests to continue their Area planning process.
I attended and commented at the March 2013 NTRAC meeting. A supportive response came from a NTRAC member.
"First and foremost, I wanted to thank you for attending our last NTRAC meeting and for making public comments under the Community Plans Update by Placer County staff. Secondly, I wanted to commend you on voicing your concern about a special Kings Beach Visioning process.
"I agree with your comments on why create another process when our community has been through several rounds about the Vision for Kings Beach. Its misguided strategies like the one offered by County staff about having this special Visioning process, the reason why most if not all Latino and other residents have lost hope in having a voice in these processes.
"I share the same concern as you address but most importantly I share the concern that not all the other communities between Tahoe City and Kings Beach have been granted the same special process to have a stand alone Visioning Process like Tahoe City and soon to take place Kings Beach.
"I have been and I will remain an advocate to have transparent, and inclusive process on proposed plans and projects in our region. With that said, I would like to support your suggestion to remove the Kings Beach Visioning stand alone Charette as I think 8 meetings and however many hours people have donated to sit on an area team is enough to generate public input."
County staff responded in an e-mail: "Thank you for your emails regarding the Kings Beach Vision Charrette. We appreciate your input, concerns and interest in this process. The Kings Beach Vision Charrette concept and development is a result of available grant funding from the Tahoe Basin Partnership for Sustainable Communities (SCS), which Placer County and TRPA are a part of.
"I believe the SCS dollars should be spent elsewhere and The North Tahoe East Team should be allowed to complete their efforts before the charrette is conducted and then open for additional recommendations to integrate a Kings Beach Core visioning."
Now another visioning exercise has popped on to the scene. The TC Golf Course. This area is not part of the Area Plan process and has not been annexed into the TC Area Plan legally through a finding of Conformance by TRPA. This adds another level of confusion and controversy to the process.
There are other issues with the overall process. I would like to commend Crystal, Nicole and her team of facilitators for their efforts, but providing important, critical zoning and planning info and tools has fallen short.
Most folks on the teams have no idea what the difference between an allowed use versus an conditional or minor use permit requirement is.
The consultant has not always captured our concerns and the draft documents do need additional update to reflect the teams efforts. The TRPA participation needs to be notched up by intervening when it is clear a team is suggesting zoning that will not meet conformance review standards.
Both the local jurisdictions and TRPA need to be vigilant in their efforts to keep the teams on the right track which will benefit the process by not wasting valuable staff time and budget.
Ellie Waller is a Tahoe Vista resident and North Tahoe West Area Plan team member.