Officials – both for and against – discuss TRPA unanimous 3-lane vote
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – “It is done.”
Those three words spoken by Allen Biaggi, chair of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board, ended more than a decade of debate and sent residents, officials and local business owners into a frenzy of cheers, applause and smiles Wednesday as they celebrated final approval – in unanimous fashion – on amendments to the Kings Beach Commercial Core Improvement Project.
“You always hope for a unanimous vote; you’re always working toward it, but you’re always surprised when you get it too,” said Ken Grehm, director of the Placer County Public Works Department.
The vote gives the county the green light to begin work on the oft-discussed and controversial idea to renovate State Route 28 through Kings Beach into three lanes, with roundabouts.
Grehm said the ambitious project would take three construction seasons to finish. The start date is contingent, however, on raising an additional $18 million to couple with the approximate $30 million already raised through the county from various public entities, Grehm said. A timeline to move forward currently is unknown.
Dave McClure, president of the Kings Beach Businesses and Citizens Alliance and outspoken leader of the three-lane opposition, said he was not surprised with the unanimous vote at Wednesday’s hearing at The Chateau.
“I think the day of reckoning is still down the road,” McClure said. “The TRPA staff had obviously influenced the board and Placer County was also influential – if anything it testifies to the political power of Placer County.”
McClure said TRPA did not account for facts such as the Roundabout Traffic Engineering report he presented to the board, which showed higher estimations of traffic during peak hours.
Looking at McClure’s RTE report, Grehm said it is one that basically reads the same as the county’s own traffic reports.
“We’re all saying the same thing, that there is going to be some congestion during those peak periods, and people decided for all the things the project gets, we’re willing to live with that – it’s worth it,” he said.
On Thursday, McClure said he and his organization have not decided on its next course of action.
Jennifer Montgomery, governing board member and representative for Placer County, said her vote had been decided a long time ago, when she worked with the Sierra Business Council and found the majority of the community was in support of three lanes.
“My reasoning behind my vote in support of the three-lane hybrid alternative was it was very clearly the choice of the community well before I ever thought about running for supervisor or getting into politics,” she said.
Dennis Oliver, TRPA Spokesman, said he’d never seen a meeting like Wednesday’s, a nine-hour session that saw five hours consumed with public comment for and against the three-lane alternative.
“I’ve been in Tahoe for three years now and I’ve never seen, in a TRPA board meeting, where the whole crowd is jumping up and breaking into applause because they’re happy with the TRPA,” Oliver said.
He also was surprised the decision had been unanimous on such a complex and highly controversial issue.
“I don’t know how many optimists there are, but it’s a little bit of a surprise that it was a unanimous vote,” he said “I thought there would be at least one ‘no’ vote in there.”
The governing board Wednesday also unanimously approved final amendments and the last two project sites for Kings Beach Housing Now, a project to bring in 77 units of affordable housing into Kings Beach.
“This is a win-win opportunity for Kings Beach,” said Meea Kang, a developer for DOMUS Development, the firm designing the project in conjunction with Placer County.