Agency loosens tree-cutting rules |

Agency loosens tree-cutting rules

Despite some dissent from local fire chiefs, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board amended an ordinance to allow property owners to remove more trees without a permit.

Under the new code, property owners can cut trees up to 14 inches in diameter at breast height without a permit, a significant change from the previous limit of 6-inch diameter trees.

However, the new code will not be extended to the shoreline area. Homeowners will still need to obtain an agency permit to remove any tree with a diameter larger than 6 inches in the area between the structure and the shore.

Board members said the change was part of the bistate agency’s effort to encourage Tahoe homeowners to create more defensible space around homes and structures for fire safety.

However, some fire chiefs said they hoped the shoreline provision would be struck from the ordinance.

“One thing that has been very evident is that fire doesn’t know boundaries,” said South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief Lorenzo Gigliotti, speaking on behalf of other Basin fire chiefs. “It doesn’t pay respect to shorezones, it doesn’t pay respect to scenic boundaries, fire knows no bounds.”

Still, board members argued that it was necessary for some compromise to be reached between protecting scenic resources and defensible space.

“That’s a compromise and that’s as far of a compromise as I want to go,” said board member Bruce Kranz. “We need to do something, we need to get this out to the public to let them know we’re serious.”

In September, Lake Tahoe fire chiefs presented a nine-point plan to the agency with specific rules they said needed to be changed to make the Basin safer.

One of the points in the letter addressed giving homeowners more control over removing trees which could pose a fire danger on their property.

That nine-point plan resulted in talks between the planning agency and the fire districts and eventually this ordinance change.

The ordinance passed with an 12-1 vote, with board member Steven Merrill voting against it.

“This is one of the cases where there is tension between fire safety and scenic standards,” Merrill said.

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