My Turn: TRPA’s unintended consequences
March 25, 2012
LAKE TAHOE – Nevada Senate Bill 271 certainly got TRPA off the dime on the Regional Plan Update, but unfortunately the process has spun out of control. On April 25th, TRPA Governing Board will give recommendations on the final direction of the RPU, the Environmental Report for the RPU, code for the RPU and present revised environmental thresholds. According to TRPA, this big push and resultant frenzy is justified by meeting the requirements of SB 271. But to many of us, it’s the excuse to overwhelm and wear out the public with mountains of information and a rushed Regional Plan which is scheduled to be approved by the end of 2012.
What none of us want is a bad regional plan with adverse unintended consequences. We feel the following land use policies are contrary to TRPA’s goal of “restoring and protecting Lake Tahoe water quality while creating sustainable communities.” A few of our main concerns are the following land use changes outlined in the staff preferred alternative:
1. Up-zoning of recreation uses: Currently, “recreation” zoned property, which includes State Parks, Forest Service Land, GIDs, and Ski Areas, does not allow residential or tourist accommodation units. If approved, the RPU would allow these uses. This is additive development and an expansion of the current urban boundaries in the Tahoe Basin. Incline Village GID owned property is now zoned recreation. TRPA proposes to up-zone 250 acres of the Park Cattle property adjacent to Heavenly Valley and Edgewood from conservation to recreation. Northstar, owned by Vail, has begun the required County approvals to extend their ski lifts into the Tahoe basin side of Mt. Pluto. Allowing development of pristine forests does nothing to improve water or air quality.
2. Density increases: Tourist Accommodation Units (TAUs) with kitchens, which includes timeshare and fractional ownership, would go from 15 units/acre to 40 units/acre. That’s more than a 247 percent increase. Where is the demand for this development?
3. Height increases: The Nevada side of the South Shore Casino core will be allowed 197 feet in height for new structures, not just allowing existing structures to be upgraded as TRPA repeatedly states. Ninety-five feet in height will be allowed for commercial on the South Shore California side, and 56 feet for the rest of the Town Centers around the lake (Incline, Kings Beach, Tahoe City on the North Shore). These heights can be further increased by local community plans or the inclusion of TAUs. This is a prime example of repeating the mistakes of the past by creating a Tahoe on steroids. As far as county restraint, we’ve seen how Washoe County listens to the public with the Incline tax revolt. Counties are driven by revenue and will likely promote excess development with little concern for community character. Again, where is the demand for all this?
4. Replenish entitlements: TRPA will be required to maintain a constant supply of entitlements. It’s an open checkbook with no mention of what the current baseline is for comparison purposes, nor what the proposed population or carrying capacity of the basin should be. How is this protecting Lake Tahoe?
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5. Coverage transfers: Currently coverage can only be transferred within the existing hydrologic areas. However, the RPU proposes transfers anywhere around the basin. South Shore coverage can come to North Shore, but the North Shore geography and roadways can’t handle much more population. We don’t have South Shore’s six-lane highways or loop roads. How does increasing traffic congestion help protect Lake Tahoe?
Let’s have a thoughtful process that enforces completion of BMPs (Storm water Treatment), encourages redevelopment of existing structures rather than additive development. Let’s collaborate on a plan that increases open space, all without sacrificing the quality of life, community character and our pristine mountain/Lake environment.
– Ann Nichols, a 42-year resident of Lake Tahoe, is president of the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance and a Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory board member.