Placer Supes approve government site | SierraSun.com

Placer Supes approve government site

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun

Down from six choices to one, the Placer County Supervisors decided last week to designate a site in Kings Beach as their primary choice for a new government center.

During a board meeting on March 11, the supervisors approved a staff recommendation to consider, not select, an undeveloped piece of Kings Beach property within the 4.3-acre site owned by long-time California developer Steven Kent Brown.

Staff held back on outright selection of the site because of comparatively high building costs, called the “Tahoe Factor” by staff documents, that would cause the center to cost approximately $1,000 per square foot.

The proposed government center would total 24,000 square feet.

Compounding elevated constructions costs, land values within the Tahoe Basin exceed those outside the region, staff said.

Placer County would receive an allocation of automobile parking within the development’s 397-space garage, but would be required to pay for their share, accounting for 25 percent of the government center’s development costs, according to staff documents.

Bruce Kranz, Placer County Supervisor for the fifth district, which includes portions of the Tahoe Basin, said in a phone conversation that it is unfair to judge the center as prohibitively expensive because in addition to the high cost of building in Tahoe, it also includes many environmental benefits.

“The reason it costs that much is it includes the [Best Management Practices] and storm water capture ” so it is unfair to say it is that expensive for just office space,” Kranz said.

Further, he said, concentrating dozens of government employees into the area would spur economic activity within the restaurants and other area businesses.

Currently there are 14 different Placer County government offices located from Lake Tahoe’s West Shore to Kings Beach and in Truckee, according to Jennifer Merchant, the Placer County Manager for the Tahoe CEO’s Office.

At least one office, she said, resides in a neighboring county. Those employees obviously spend money in that county.

Kranz plans on gathering information that would isolate the cost of the office space, separate from other building costs that would not be incurred while building in western Placer County.

“Tahoe is the most expensive place to build in California,” said developer Steven Brown, owner of the land.

Even so, Brown expects to make a profit from the acreage he purchased in December 2006 for $5 million. He indicated the proposed government center would complement his multi-use use development by enhancing the local economy and drawing more people for one-stop shopping.

Meanwhile Brown’s organization has not yet submitted an application for development to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, according to spokesman Dennis Oliver.

But Brown said his organization has been ready and willing to submit plans for the past three weeks but due to lack of significant guidance in the process, has not.

Brown will meet with officials from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Placer County to nail down the details of the application process on March 20, Brown said.

If Brown’s application is approved, the county’s government center would not go in anytime soon. Brown predicted it would be two years before the first shovel hits the dirt on his property.

The developer was admitted into the TRPA’s Community Enhancement Program and requested 50,000 square feet of commercial floor space, but was allocated 7 percent less, according to Oliver. It is not clear at this point if the government center would shrink as a result.

The board of supervisors authorized the hunt for a centralized Lake Tahoe government facility in April 2006.

A preliminary study identified possible occupants of the center to include the County Executive Office ” including redevelopment, public information and emergency services ” and the Community Development Resource Agency department, public works, environmental health and the assessor’s office. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency might also share space in the new building.

After conducting 11 community forums, officials in Placer County received majority support for the building of the center in Kings Beach. Other sites being considered were located in Martis Valley, Squaw Valley, Kingswood, Tahoe Vista, and Tahoe City. Also bolstering support for the Kings Beach site, officials received a letter in November 2007 authored by officials within North Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, according to Placer County’s board documents. The letter was supported, in part, by officials within the North Tahoe Business Association and the Tahoe City Downtown Association.