Judge upholds TRPA regional plan | SierraSun.com

Judge upholds TRPA regional plan

Tom Lotshaw
tlotshaw@tahoedailytribune.com

A federal judge in Sacramento ruled today in favor of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s new regional plan update for the Lake Tahoe Basin.

U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez’s 20-page decision upholds the plan and dismisses a lawsuit against it that was filed by Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore. Mendez heard oral arguments on the case during an hour-long hearing March 26.

The lawsuit was filed shortly after the bistate TRPA adopted the regional plan update in December 2012. The lawsuit alleged on several grounds that the plan does not do enough to protect the mountain lake’s sensitive environment and would allow too much development in the basin.

TRPA has argued the regional plan update will improve the environment at Lake Tahoe by encouraging “environmentally beneficial” redevelopment.

“This encouraging decision could not have come at a more critical time for Lake Tahoe,” Joanne Marchetta, executive director of the TRPA, said in a formal statement after today’s ruling. “The pace of environmental restoration will accelerate under the new plan with more opportunities for healthy, sustainable communities.”

Years in the making, the new regional plan is an update of TRPA’s 1987 regional plan. It offers an array of incentives to encourage environmental redevelopment and to shift development from outlying and environmentally-sensitive areas into town center boundaries.

Supporters of the plan have argued the approach is needed to spur the redevelopment of older, nonconforming developments built around the lake before strict environmental standards took effect in the 1980s.

Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore were not immediately available for comment. Earthjustice, which argued the lawsuit on their behalf, called today’s ruling a bad decision for Lake Tahoe.

“Lake Tahoe is still recovering from too much urbanization and runoff pollution and its blue waters deserve the strongest of protections to ensure a full recovery,” said attorney Wendy Park, of Earthjustice. “Unfortunately, the court decision allows more urbanization, the very cause of the lake’s decline, without ensuring effective runoff controls are in place first.”

Darcie Goodman Collins, director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, in a formal statement said the group is glad that the lawsuit has concluded.

“This means Tahoe’s communities can move forward with certainty about their regulatory environment over the coming decades. We respect the concerns of our colleagues at the Sierra Club, Friends of the West Shore and Earthjustice about the new regional plan. It is not a perfect plan, but the League to Save Lake Tahoe also recognizes that it has the potential to help Tahoe’s environment through multiple safeguards that require restoration and environmental improvements with any new development or redevelopment,” Goodman Collins said.