New TRPA board member has busy first day
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. and#8212; A newly appointed member of the TRPA governing board who some said was predisposed against the high-profile Tahoe Biltmore redevelopment proposal had a prolonged and eventful introduction to the agency’s method of operation last week.
Clem Shute, the California governor’s appointee to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s 14-member decision-making body, sat on the TRPA governing board for the first time during a 12-hour meeting on Wednesday, April 27.
And the environmental lawyer was anything but timid.
Most notably, it was Shute who struck a deal with the developers’ legal representative, Lew Feldman, to extend the period of mandatory erosion control for the project from five to 20 years.
The extension will be stipulated in permit conditions drawn up and agreed to by both Boulder Bay and TRPA, and will further include a security bond which will fund project maintenance, regardless of the financing status associated with other elements of the project.
Following the agreement, Shute voted to approve the project, raising some eyebrows among pundits who followed the proposed project’s evolution through the TRPA application process.
Shute’s appointment caused some fellow board members to balk as they saw the move to appoint Shute and#8212; an environmental lawyer who formerly represented TRPA and the League to Save Lake Tahoe in separate cases and#8212; as an attempt to enforce a regulatory approach to governance at Lake Tahoe.
In an early April interview, governing board member and South Lake Tahoe City Councilwoman Claire Fortier said the appointment seemed like a and#8220;chess moveand#8221; by Governor Jerry Brown’s office to influence the board’s makeup at a critical time in the TRPA’s history.
Brown, who as California Attorney General, wrote a letter to the Boulder Bay project management team in March 2010 criticizing the traffic study that was conducted as part of the project application procedure.
and#8220;The use of a hypothetical baseline, rather than observed existing conditions, likewise distorts the Draft’s … analysis,and#8221; Brown wrote.
Much of the dissension relating to the proposed project has revolved around the traffic analysis, which stated that traffic would decrease because Boulder Bay will be a mixed-use site featuring a restaurant and other amenities which would discourage travelers from entering their cars and seeking sustenance or entertainment elsewhere.
Byron Sher, one of only two members to vote no on approval of Boulder Bay, said it defies common sense that a larger project would decrease traffic.
However, Shute voted to approve.
and#8220;I think the efforts to reduce the size of the project have gone as far as they are going to go,and#8221; he said during an interview after the April 27 meeting. and#8220;The property as it stands today is not helping the lake. An important factor for me was including the 20-year security bond (that mandated routine maintenance on erosion control measures).and#8221;
Mara Bresnick, another California representative who cast the only other dissenting vote, said her largest concern is the lack of a security bond that would fund environmental remediation of the site should construction desist at any point during the project.
The concern relates to the and#8220;holeand#8221; in South Lake Tahoe, an aborted convention center project that has left a wide swath of open land with a few scattered construction elements protruding from the ground near Stateline.
The continual presence of the fenced-in eyesore on the South Shore stoked fears among TRPA board members that a similar occurrence could create a blemish to North Shore’s scenery.
However, Helm said the conditions that lead to the abandonment of the South Shore development will not occur again.
and#8220;Regarding the project on the South Shore, it was a situation where the construction financing was not yet raised, but the owner of that property wanted to get in the ground during the construction time frame with the idea he could gain financing during the process,and#8221; he said during the meeting. and#8220;However, due to the struggles of several large banks, that financing disappeared.and#8221;
The upgraded permit conditions for Boulder Bay will contain a stipulation that mandates the developer document its ability to fund the project prior to commencing construction.
Boulder Bay’s lending partners were awaiting TRPA approval last week before providing assurances of financing, Helm said, but Boulder Bay’s initial investigations into financing availability have been favorable.