Tahoe Vistans seek update of community plan | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Vistans seek update of community plan

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun

Tahoe Vista residents are done fighting development proposed for their piece of the North Shore.

Instead, they want to come up with collaborative solutions for the revitalization of Tahoe Vista that work for everybody.

A small group of Tahoe Vistans met last month and decided to pro-actively address their concerns at the root ” the Tahoe Vista Community Plan, established in 1996 as “the guiding doctrine for land use related decisions,” the plan states.

The group, made up of residents, business owners and property owners, is looking to amend portions of the community plan so it addresses the type of development proposed for Tahoe Vista and promotes a balanced approach to growth.

“So that it reflects what is really going on in our community,” said Randy Hill, a Tahoe Vista resident.

Their effort, however, will only succeed if its inclusive and sits everyone down at the table ” both developers and residents, as well as the North Tahoe Public Utility District and the governing agencies.

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“This is grassroots by a bunch of residents,” said Alex Mourelatos, a business and property owner. “And I’m sitting down as a business owner and a would-be developer. And I’m trying to represent that point of view.”

The group’s first order of business ” perhaps their most important step ” is to identify and involve the community’s stakeholders, including residents, homeowners, business owners, property owners, developers, the North Tahoe Public Utility District and local government agencies.

“If the majority of people who are interested in this seriously come to the table with an attitude of solutions and compromise, we can do this,” Hill said. “But it’s going to take that.”

Bringing all of those stakeholders together to collaboratively amend a single document is no easy task, however.

“There are clear expectations that we need more of a plan or a direction for what we think Tahoe Vista might become or should be,” Mourelatos said. “But I also think people don’t understand what’s there today. And how it’s used to help guide development in Tahoe Vista.”

Also, any revision to the community plan might have to wait until after the updated Regional Plan, which takes a broader look at the Lake Tahoe Basin as a whole, is completed and approved, agency officials say.

“[Community plans] all get a little stale,” said Jennifer Merchant of the Placer County Executive Office. “Public engagement is a huge part of the community plan process. And I think that their enthusiasm is really appreciated. But I think it needs to be tempered with a very complex regional planning process.”

Placer County has a Memorandum of Agreement with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to address the Regional Plan first, and then the community plans. And the TRPA’s resources are mostly dedicated to the Regional Plan and wildfire prevention efforts ” their two highest priorities, said Jeff Cowen, spokesman for the TRPA.

For the meantime, Cowen said the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency must uphold their commitments to continue processing development applications as they come in. But he encouraged the community to initiate dialogue with the developers.

“The best thing that they can be doing is looking at the current community plan and what’s good in it,” Cowen said. “And start working with the developers to try to promote what it is that they want.”

Hill acknowledged that amending the community plan will be a long process. And he said he hoped solutions will surface along the way.

“Now it means that everybody has to give up a little something,” Hill said. “We all have to give up a little bit here. And ideally, if we’re coming together to look at this plan, we’ll get to that.”

Executive Director Karen Van Epps of the North Tahoe Development Watch, a Tahoe Vista resident, listed off issues that need to be updated and addressed in the community plan ” density, noise levels, stress on infrastructure, fractional ownership, environmental restoration and the cumulative impact of all the development proposed for the North Shore community.

“There’s so much more,” she said. “You could go on and on. I mean, that’s the purpose of a community plan ” sensitive growth. Planning for sensitive growth.”

Many of the issues seen today were not even a topic of discussion when the existing community plan was written, a process that took 10 years, said Leah Kaufman, a land-use planner who was involved in the 1996 community plan.

“There are uses that are being proposed [today] that were never contemplated,” Kaufman said. “As a community grows and changes, their vision grows and changes.”

Some reasons for conflict lie in the way different parties interpret the document, Hill said.

“I think everyone who’s becoming involved in this process is dealing with some issues of ambiguity,” Hill said. “It’s probably the way most public documents are written. The problem we have today is that there is so much going on, it’s very difficult to apply the same level of consistent analysis to each project against this somewhat amorphous set of guidelines.”

Mourelatos, who brought forth a proposal for an affordable housing development to the governing board last year and only to receive criticism and rejection from the community, said he dedicated a “significant amount” of work to conform his project to both the Tahoe Vista Community Plan and the existing Regional Plan.

“The current plan has served us well and continues to serve us well,” Mourelatos said. “I believe that what we have is adequate or good, but I think as a community, we’re learning some lessons that we can apply to the plan.”

If the community plan, however, is not addressed, things will only keep going as they have, ending up in conflict, Hill said.

“We just keep reinventing the wheel, project by project by project,” Hill said. “And nobody wants to do that. It’s a lot of money, a lot of energy, a lot of emotion and nobody wins in the end.”