At odds in Tahoe Vista
Aptly named for boasting some of the best panoramas on the North Shore, Tahoe Vista is a little community with big plans. Hidden beneath Old Tahoe charm and striking views, some residents and business owners are at odds over the future of their town.
Covering approximately one-square mile of land, Tahoe Vista has four big projects in the works. And many residents are skeptical about plans for development.
“I think in general having these big numbers will ruin what people are looking for when they come up to the lake,” said 21-year Tahoe Vista resident and owner of The Holiday House, Alvina Patterson. “If we over-develop, it won’t be … a place where anyone wants to come to get away from the noise, the city. I think people will be very sorry if this happens.”
Patterson fears the North Tahoe Marina expansion, a proposed increase from 30 to more than 180 boat slips, would devastate not only her business but also those across the street. She said the impact of the cumulative projects may destroy Tahoe Vista.
“It’s just four more Tonopalos, in the way of density.”
The four major projects well involved in the planning process include two condominium lodgings, affordable housing units and the marina expansion. Additionally, Placer County is considering a site located off National Avenue for a Tahoe-based government center.
Tahoe Sands is currently a timeshare development located on both sides of Highway 28. The redevelopment project proposes to replace the 67 existing units with 103 units and to add workforce housing.
Placer County supervising planner Allen Breuch said though developers have been conscientious of view corridors, residents disagree as to whether the project is necessary for revitalization or simply too much to handle.
The project will be required to undergo a focused environmental impact review.
Proposed in the existing campground area, Sandy Beach would include 45 tourist accommodation units, 10 affordable housing units and a remodel of Spindleshanks Restaurant. Sandy Beach is currently in the environmental review draft phase and will return to the public in 30 to 45 days, Breuch said.
“The county’s concern is the loss of the campground,” said Breuch.
And Vista Village, known in its previous life as Cedar Grove, proposes 72 rental and for-sale units on a 12-acre undeveloped parcel owned by the Mourelatos family. The project is currently undergoing the environmental review process and will be released to the public for comment in April.
The biggest concern on the part of some residents is whether the community can support the proposed growth.
“We’re pretty much built out, and we can’t fit the infrastructure,” said Tahoe Vista resident Ellie Waller.
Public concerns with water and sewer supply, road conditions and traffic control are addressed in the environmental review process. And it is the job of both the North Tahoe Public Utility District and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to ensure systems have the capacity to serve new development.
“The cumulative effects of development or redevelopment in a tight-knit community like Tahoe Vista are extremely important to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency,” said Jeff Cowen, TRPA community liaison. “One of our primary goals is to ensure that infrastructure ” like roads, parking and utilities ” are adequate for what projects may be proposed.”-
Resistance to development in Tahoe Vista is due in part to Tonopalo, the large resort built over a landmark sand dune in 2002. Residents felt side-swiped by the three-story project that didn’t involve the community in its plans.
“It’s a black eye,” Waller said. “Because we didn’t see it coming.”
Tonopalo sparked residents’ interest in Tahoe Vista development plans.
“People started caring because of that project,” said Tahoe Vista resident and land use planner and consultant Leah Kauffman.
Community members formed an e-mail list-serve in an effort to increase communication about development issues, to examine the cumulative impacts of proposed projects and to help retain Tahoe Vista’s character.
“The community has been made more aware, and each project will be looked at with a higher level of scrutiny,” Kauffman said. “With all the scrutiny, I think the projects are definitely coming out better.”
But some residents still want to have a larger role in the planning phases.
“We just want to understand what’s happening to our community before the projects are approved,” Waller said.
While some residents worry about developmental impacts on infrastructure and environment, the land and business owners, many North Tahoe locals themselves, say it needn’t be a concern.
“I’m very confident the development being proposed will not negatively impact the environment,” said Alex Mourelatos, Vista Village landowner and Tahoe Vista business owner. “It goes beyond that to the will of this community to change.”
Mourelatos said the individuals proposing the developments are making strides to update and enhance both the properties themselves and the community overall.
“I think the line is pretty drawn between the residents and the land and business owners,” Mourelatos said. “[They are] all thinking of and pursuing ways of improving property. None of us are trying to do something, in my opinion, that has a significant negative impact on the community … I am not fighting my neighbor. I’m trying to come up with a solution that strikes a balance. It’s important.”
Development across the North Shore remains a contentious issue where residents, business owners and even tourists offer differing viewpoints. Some residents insist that it’s just a matter of “smart growth” while others want to preserve the Tahoe of 30 years ago.
“I believe in redevelopment, but good redevelopment ” with good, sustainable growth,” Kauffman said.
And though some North Tahoe locals are mostly concerned with the projects planned for tiny Tahoe Vista, they also keep in mind development in all of the Tahoe Basin.
“We get accused of being NIMBY’s, but none of this is in my backyard. What I look at is the good for the overall community,” said Wotel. “I have a button the Sierra Club gave me. It says ‘I’m a TIMBY’: Tahoe Is My Backyard.”