My Turn: Let the public have its say in KB
January 16, 2014
This is really hard to write. Dave Ferrari and I have been on the same team for a long time! But now, we need to talk frankly about land use in Kings Beach.
By now you've probably heard about the idea of a private boarding school, the Tahoe Expedition Academy proposed on the current Crown Motel, Falcon Lodge and Gold Crest Resort properties.
Maybe it's the best idea ever for Kings Beach, but there is so little information about the project and future impacts to the community, who knows? My concerns aren't about the expansion of TEA. I want the school in Kings Beach! It's a wonderful resource and would be a great facility.
But a lakefront location isn't the right place. And just because it's an "allowed use" doesn't means it's a good idea. The community has to understand what it means to have a school on Main Street. Is it the highest and best use on our precious lakefront? What are the impacts to the whole community?
I'm a supporter of property rights — really, aren't we all? But the rights of adjacent current and future property and business owners must also be considered.
Placer County staff is asking the BOS to consider a temporary zoning ordinance for uses inconsistent with the current Area Plan and the vision work being done by residents and business owners in Tahoe City and Kings Beach.
A lot of us have sat at tables together for the last 24-plus months. We've learned to talk to each other and reach consensus on matters of land use. Talking works. We talked about having exceptional educational facilities in our town and we discussed appropriate locations. Never was the site of our lodging core suggested.
The ordinance won't prevent TEA from developing on several other available sites and it won't quash an appropriate sale.
Specifically, the temporary zoning ordinance would eliminate schools, daycare centers, animal husbandry, churches, McMansions, recycling centers and auto shops in our downtown cores.
The temporary ordinance gives us 45 days to talk before a required review by the BOS. If the BOS takes action on Jan. 21, it will give us time for a public process.
Did you know:
• There will be no public input on the proposed project if we don't stop and breathe for 45 days.
• The California Alcohol Beverage Control can deny applications for liquor licenses within 600 feet of any school. TEA could impact dozens of existing properties and some of our favorite local businesses. Imagine Hiro's Sushi without sake, or Steamer's Pizza without a pitcher! Don't you think Las Panchitas and Jason's deserve to know how their businesses will be impacted? I do. In real estate class I learned that's inverse condemnation and it can harm current/future property and business owners for generations.
• Lodging is the bedrock for many of our retail, recreation, service and restaurant businesses. A recent study of the Economic Significance of Travel to the North Lake Tahoe indicates a day visitor spends on average $122 per day, but lodging guests spend $234 dollars/day/person.
• Let's do the math. Let's assume an average 40 percent occupancy in the Crown's 71 units year-round and there's an average of three visitors/room. Now let's multiply those numbers by the difference in expenses of a day-tripper vs. an overnight visitor, multiplied by 365 days per year. That's a loss of $3.5 million per year to the Kings Beach economy. That's going to hurt.
• Even if the school's assessed value jumps to $15 million per year, the school will pay only $150,000 in property taxes, 17 percent of which, only $25,000, will go to Placer County and very little of that to Kings Beach.
What I know about the process:
• Placer County has invested tens of millions of our taxpayer dollars in helping us plan our future. Let's give ourselves another 45 days to talk about it, in public meetings.
• If uses "by right" move forward, there is no environmental mitigation required, so what you see is what you get. Seriously? We must do better at Tahoe's best beach.
And my favorite: The existing process is not credible; it is not open, transparent, informed, interactive or inclusive. We've come to expect a credible process from Placer County and of ourselves — let's not stop now.
Together, let's support the positive action at the BOS on Jan. 21.
Theresa May Duggan is a Tahoe Vista resident.
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