Delays possible in major TRPA projects |

Delays possible in major TRPA projects

Jonah M. Kessel / Sun News ServiceThe empty parking lot of the Mikasa building is reflecting in a sign at the "Y" on Wednesday. The area is among those that have development rights reserved under a new TRPA program, and won't be affected by the agency's ban on certain new project applications.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE ” In an effort to get a much-delayed regional plan update completed, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board voted Wednesday to stop accepting applications for certain major projects until the update is adopted.

Once scheduled for possible approval in 2007, a regional plan update is not expected to be voted on by the board until at least Spring 2010.

The extent of the impact of Wednesday’s decision was not immediately clear.

The TRPA will still accept applications for large projects that do not require changes to the 1987 regional plan.

The TRPA will also allow projects that are already in the planning agency’s Community Enhancement Program to move forward.

Still, the board’s action was enough to worry at least one person at the meeting.

Joe Stewart, a project manager for SMC Contracting, said stopping any major projects from applying until the regional plan update is complete is “potentially destructive” to the construction economy because it could limit the amount of contracting work in the basin.

“This would really be a turn in the wrong direction for middle-class people who depend on construction in the basin,” Stewart said.

Despite the concern, no one at Wednesday’s meeting spoke about a specific project that will be delayed because of the board’s decision.

Developers of North Shore projects that fall under the Community Enhancement Program were pleased that projects in the program can move forward.

The TRPA started the Community Enhancement Program in August 2007, with the goal of getting substantial environmental benefits from several projects in exchange for additional TRPA-regulated development rights, such as commercial floor space.

The program is a move toward “incentive-based,” rather than regulatory-based, planning, TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub said at Wednesday’s Governing Board meeting in Stateline.

“I think we’re on the right path,” Singlaub said.

Nine projects have development rights under the program. Seven of those projects are at Lake Tahoe’s North Shore.

The two South Shore projects ” both at the “Y” ” are among five that have development rights reserved under the program but have yet to submit applications.

Changes to height, density and possibly parking requirements in the current TRPA code would be needed for the South Shore projects to be completed, according to TRPA documents.

Because of the board’s Wednesday decision, planning agency staff will need to review the South Shore projects before the required code changes can be presented to the governing board, said TRPA spokesman Dennis Oliver.

It is unknown if the South Shore projects will apply for the development rights reserved under the program, but the projects may receive some additional time in January.

Planning agency staff are expected to bring an item before the governing board next month to extend the application deadline by a year ” to February 2010 ” for program projects showing “adequate progress.”

Projects will be looked at on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they’ve made enough progress to qualify for the extension, said TRPA Legal Counsel Joanne Marchetta.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the TRPA Governing Board’s longest-serving member announced his resignation.

Jerome Waldie, 83, has served as the California Senate representative on the planning agency’s board for 16 years and has been recognized as one of the board’s most vocal environmental advocates.

Waldie ” a former California Assemblyman and U.S. Congressman ” cited unspecified health issues as the primary reason for his resignation.

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