Defining fun in Lake Tahoe |

Defining fun in Lake Tahoe

Matthew Renda
Sierra Sun

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. and#8212; Defining a multi-seasonal resort, developing a new way to assess the ecological impact of recreation at Tahoe area parks and protecting public access to parks when property rights change ownership are three elements the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Governing Board weighed in on while discussing the Regional Plan update.

Lake Tahoe’s current Regional Plan, adopted in 1987, is due for an update and#8212; something the bi-state agency hopes to accomplish by October 2011. It will impact every resident and visitor to the basin by guiding economic development, controlling transportation and protecting local ecosystems and public recreation areas.

During the latest meeting of the TRPA Governing Board, board members were tasked with providing direction to TRPA staff in charge of crafting the legal language of the Regional Plan, especially the portion focused on recreation.

The board mulled the inclusion of a new recreational category called and#8220;multi-seasonal resort.and#8221;

Recreational resorts, in an effort to increase revenue, are finding ways to stay relevant throughout the year, such as ski resorts hosting mountain biking tournaments in the summer or golf courses hosting sledding competitions or cross country skiing events during the winter, said Harmon Zuckerman, director of the Regional Plan update.

and#8220;Resort operators are running 12 months a year, which is beyond the scope of their original resort designation, which creates additional traffic, environmental impact and should require a master plan,and#8221; Zuckerman said.

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Zuckerman said the only recreational operations currently required to submit a master plan are ski resorts and marinas.

and#8220;When resorts integrate different operations incrementally over time, the TRPA does not have an opportunity to review such integration,and#8221; said TRPA general counsel Nicole Rinke. and#8220;Resorts add things such as zip lines, wedding facilities and like operations without consulting the TRPA.and#8221;

Rinke said requiring multi-season resorts to submit a master plan will force those operations to think ahead and will afford the TRPA an opportunity to assess environmental impacts.

However, some on the board felt the measure was a method for the TRPA to increase revenue through assessing more application fees, and was a reaction to a short-term maneuver by the resorts looking to diversify revenue streams in a recession.

and#8220;Resorts are attempting to get creative in a difficult economic environment and I wonder if, when the economy strengthens, this category will be necessary,and#8221; said Shelly Aldean, TRPA governing board member and Carson City Supervisor.

Board member and South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Hale Cole said the measure might inhibit a resort’s ability to respond differently to changes in the economic environment.

However, Mara Bresnick, board member and California Assembly Speaker’s appointee to the board, said that business owners should not fear master plans, as they allow developers an opportunity to explore different recreational opportunities from the start of the project.

and#8220;People should not be afraid of master planning efforts, it gives resorts who are considering multi-seasonal activities an opportunity to assess environmental impact,and#8221; she said.

Ultimately, the board voted to direct staff to include the new definition of multi-season resort in the Regional Plan.

Environmental impacts at recreation sites in the basin are measured with a and#8220;Person At One Timeand#8221; method, meaning that no matter what a person is doing they are seen has having the same effects.

While staff recommended the continued use of the methodology, some people feel the method of assessment does not take into account the type of recreation and how it impacts the environment.

Carl Young, program director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said the method and#8220;is antiquated and does not factor environmental impacts.and#8221;

For instance, the PAOT may register a windsurfer and a boater that uses a 35-foot dual engine boat as the same impact on a given recreational area. Young contends the environmental impact is considerably different and the TRPA needs to consider alternative methods of assessing impacts to the environment relative to activity instead of number of people.

Board member Jennifer Montgomery, Placer County Supervisor, noted that many residents and environmental organizations were calling for a change in methodology.

and#8220;No one seems to be happy with the PAOT system,and#8221; she said. and#8220;It’s a good opportunity to explore alternatives.and#8221;

The board voted to approve the staff recommendation regarding the continued use of PAOT for the short term, but urged staff to consider alternative methods going forward.

and#8220;I would like to see alternative methods explored and incorporated sooner rather than later,and#8221; said Bresnick.

The last recreation issue tackled by the board during the regular meeting dealt with the protection of public rights-of-way when properties changed hands.

Timothy Cashman, at-large board member from Nevada, urged the board to implement statutes that required local jurisdictions to notify the TRPA when a property that contains a public right-of-way within its boundaries changes ownership.

and#8220;It’s important to be able to protect public access to recreational areas despite changes in property ownership,and#8221; he said.

The board unanimously approved direction to staff that provides the TRPA oversight of basin-wide public rights-of-way.