Agency reviews ‘enhancement’ projects | SierraSun.com

Agency reviews ‘enhancement’ projects

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun
Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunKings Beach property owner S.K. Brown is one of nine developers who applied for the TRPA's Community Enhancement Program. S.K. Brown's proposed project would create a mixed-use Kings Beach Town Center between Fox and Coon streets.
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Environmentalists, residents and business owners all have a stake to protect in the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s current search for beneficial development projects.

So it’s no surprise that each sector turned out in force last week at the governing board’s meeting in Kings Beach, and engaged in a dialogue over the fairness and goals of the agency’s Community Enhancement Program.

The program seeks innovative development concepts that fulfill community wishes and exceed environmental goals. Nine projects in the Tahoe Basin applied to the agency by the deadline.

After an initial review of the submitted proposals, members of the governing board questioned how development incentives would be defined and distributed, how the public could remain involved, and the size of the program’s environmental gain.

“The whole idea is to get this thing to be fair,” said board member Jim Galloway. “So we can all understand that it’s a fair and defensible process.”

Galloway said he would prefer the benefits developers give in exchange for such incentives as extra square footage or height ” called “commodity” incentives by the agency ” be secured in written code.

Board member Steven Merrill said he was concerned that the projects would be judged under the agency’s current set of environmental goals that need to be updated.

“It’s an awful lot of experimentation,” he said. “A lot of development … under a set of environmental thresholds which we all consider need to be reviewed.”

Nine developers across the basin ” five located in Kings Beach ” are proposing to rebuild aging properties, promote public transit, incorporate “green” energy, intercept sediment before it clouds the lake, diversify housing and provide public gathering areas in return for the valuable incentives the agency is dangling as a reward.

In asking for projects that go beyond existing environmental requirements, the agency is offering rewards in commercial floor space, additional residential units and potential amendments to height, density and parking requirements ” commodities that have a significant monetary worth to developers.

“These commodities can be used poorly, or those commodities can be used aggressively to enhance some of the environmental benefits that we would like to, essentially, fast-track,” said Joanne Marchetta, the agency’s legal counsel.

Agency staff are currently reviewing the proposed concepts and will provide a recommendation to the board at its January meeting about which projects deserve to move forward under the program.

The program is intended to inform the bistate agency how to update its regional plan and code of ordinances to promote environmental, economic and social progress.

But some are concerned the program may be premature and may “adversely affect the implementation of the regional plan,” as Brennan Lagasse of the League to Save Lake Tahoe put it at last week’s meeting.