Anger at CA fuels Tahoe bill debate in Nevada Legislature
The Associated Press
UPDATE: 3 p.m. Friday
CARSON CITY, Nev. and#8212; Frustration over tough land use regulations fueled criticism against California and Lake Tahoe regulators Friday as Nevada lawmakers considered a proposal to withdraw from a decades-old compact governing the scenic basin that straddles both states.
Under SB271, Nevada would secede from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, a bi-state agency created in 1969, and assume regulatory duties for lands in the Tahoe Basin within the state’s boundaries.
Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, said the regulatory structure of the TRPA has been taken over by California and litigation from environmental groups. He said his bill is “the only arrow I have in my quiver” to try bring change.
Republican co-sponsors called TRPA a “bloated bureaucracy” and an “obstructionist organization,” that takes years to decide if a homeowner can cut up a dead tree or pave a driveway.
“We are suffocating from regulation,” said Mike Young, an Incline Village resident and president of the Nevada Association of Realtors. He said Nevada is being held “captive” by California’s influence on the bi-state regulatory board, calling the neighboring state “the big bully in the school lunch room.”
Critics of TRPA also cited lawsuits by environmental groups and a regional plan that hasn’t been updated since 1987 for hamstringing property owners and adding to frustration of businesses and homeowners.
Other backers of the measure said if Nevada withdrew, it could then begin discussion on how to revamp the agency.
Joanne Marchetta, TRPA executive director, acknowledged the frustration of critics but said it would be wrong to dissolve the agency that has made great strides to protect the famous Lake Tahoe.
“I’ve heard the accounts, those who say they’ve had a bad experience with TRPA’s permitting process, and I’m here to say I understand,” she said.
The biggest problem, she said, is “two states with what at times can be profoundly different philosophies.”
California, she said, emphasizes environmental protection and a few weeks ago questioned TRPA’s environmental commitment. Nevada on the other hand is about free enterprise and private property rights.
“Each state wants to control its own destiny,” she said.
Marchetta said the state-to-state conflicts are erupting at an unfortunate time because scientists have “never had a better understanding” of the environmental challenges that need fixing.
She said while the 1986 regional plan focused on residential growth to curb the degradation of Tahoe, the TRPA is now targeting the redevelopment of older developments and#8212; using more environmentally sound building practices and#8212; to reduce runoff that deposits silt into Tahoe’s waters and at the same time promote economic renewal.
“We can keep Tahoe both blue and alive for the people who live there,” she said.
Leo Drozdoff, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval was neutral on the bill. But Drozdoff warned of “unintended consequences” should the bill pass, such as court-imposed moratorium on building or new regulations. Federal funding for ongoing environmental projects with the basin could also be jeopardized.
He said Sandoval has committed to a dialogue with Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown, and recommended legislative leadership from both states do the same.
“We know these efforts have been initiated in the past with poor results,” Drozdoff said, but added that if the overture is rebuffed, it “would certainly shape Nevada’s next steps.”
He also recommended the removal of TRPA in matters involving residential properties, saying such issues would be better handled by local governments.
Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, fielded tough questioning from Nevada senators and denied her agency was against development.
“We have a clear set of rules,” she said, adding there would be less litigation if developers stayed without those bounds and didn’t seek waivers.
No action was taken by the Senate Government Affairs Committee, though Lee said it would be discussed further in work sessions.
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