County, feds sued over transit center |

County, feds sued over transit center

Placer County’s approval last year of a transit center in Tahoe City has been sued by neighboring property owners because of environmental concerns.

Tony Rossmann, attorney for both the Tahoe Tavern and Tavern Shores homeowners associations, filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of his clients seeking to stop the Tahoe City Transit Center. The county-approved project would be built on 2.5 acres of land in the 64 acres tract in Tahoe City and include spaces for six buses, a 130-space parking lot, waiting areas for passengers and an office.

The case has not gone to a hearing, but the opponents of the project allege the county violated both state and federal environmental laws by approving the project. The lawsuit, which was filed in March, states the homeowners “would experience direct and adverse effects from the construction and operation of the transit center projects and LOTS project … diminished property values, loss of recreational opportunities, traffic congestion, noise and harm to the built and natural environment in the area surrounding their homes.”

The lawsuit, which was filed against Placer County, the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Transit Administration, also mentions the Lake of the Sky Interpretive Center (LOTS project) that the Forest Service proposed in 1997. The homeowners objected to that project, which was proposed to be built adjacent to Tahoe Taverns and Tavern Shores on a beach. Although the lawsuit links the two projects, the Forest Service has said there are currently no plans to build an interpretive center in that location and that there are no funds set aside for construction.

“They were tied,” David Hansen, who manages the Tavern Shores and Tahoe Taverns properties, said of both projects. “Lake of the Sky became secondary to the transit center. If the transit center comes to pass, what would stop them from paving more?”

Rick Crabtree, an attorney representing Placer County, said the plaintiffs are off-base and firmly believes the county will win the case.

“The plaintiffs link the two projects in their complaint, but they have nothing to do with one another. The transit center is going forward whether the interpretive center does or not,” Crabtree said. “The opponents are simply owners of condos near the transit center who would prefer it be located somewhere else. Anyone who has driven through Tahoe City in the summer knows there is a need for this project.”

The county put out requests for design proposals on the transit center project in April and received proposals in May, said Will Garner, senior transportation systems supervisor for the county. County staff plan to go to the board of supervisors in September to award the design contract, with design and architectural work taking a year to two years, Garner said.

Although the lawsuit asks for an injunction on the project, Rossmann noted that he will not pursue one as long as the county does not do anything to the land between now and the hearing scheduled for Jan. 12, 2007.

“We tried to compromise,” Hansen said. “We didn’t litigate immediately. It has been a long, challenging process.”

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