My Turn: TRPA program is reckless abandonment of good planning | SierraSun.com

My Turn: TRPA program is reckless abandonment of good planning

Jerry Wotel and Mike Hawkins

The evolution of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Community Enhancement Program has been orchestrated over a period of several years.

The first step in this process was the establishment of the Pathway 2007 Program, by TRPA and other agencies, which was to study, consider, and advise the TRPA.

This forum consisted of 44 members of almost entirely government agencies or Tahoe-related business interests primarily from South Lake Tahoe. Technical working groups were formed to study the scientific and technical aspects of various problem areas. Four place-based Working Groups were formed, and after a series of public workshops, formulated a “community vision.”

The membership of these working groups was heavily weighted toward government and business representation with the meetings conducted by paid facilitators and closely monitored by Pathway staff. As a consequence, the CEP, presumably a product of the Pathway 2007 Program, is aimed to identify and approve development projects to move the Lake Tahoe Basin toward attainment of environmental thresholds, and social and economic benefits through mixed-use development projects on existing disturbed and/or underutilized sites.

This development approach will largely benefit the business community, but may have a significant and negative impact on the quality of life for many, if not most, of the full-time and part-time residents of North and West Shore Tahoe.

Why isn’t the semi-rural mountain community quality of life for residents, visitors and tourists given equal ” or greater ” consideration with business aspirations during planning and decision-making?

The CEP is intended to be the “bricks and mortar” of the Pathways vision. Yet that link has not been publicly reviewed. Pathways produced principles and concepts, whereas the CEP projects are precedent setting. The larger the project or combined projects, the larger the risk of unintended consequences to a community.

Balancing perceived gains with cumulative consequences is not a process that should be conducted behind closed doors by non-residents. The incentives offered are public entitlements, and local businesses and residents must live with the consequences. There must be open public review seeking a better representation of the scientific truth. Otherwise, the pressure from narrow agendas, the influence of misinformation, and short-term profits by individuals can outweigh common sense.

Five of the seven developments on North Tahoe that have submitted pre-applications will contribute directly to increased tourism. The benefits of the CEP may be overshadowed by the negative impacts of greater tourism that will result in more traffic congestion, more environmental damage, greater demands for minimum-wage part-time employees, more workforce housing, and greater demands on community infrastructure. In addition, the program may create precedence for relaxed codes and ordinances that permit future greater land coverage, density, building height, etc., all of which impact the quality of the community.

Six of these CEP developments will be in Kings Beach and in Crystal Bay. The CEP was evolved from individual “demonstration projects.” It was not envisioned nor anticipated that so many projects would be submitted for less than one mile of Route 28. How does the CEP process account for the cumulative impacts? Social and community impacts of scale and character are also degraded by so many projects in one area. If fully implemented the proposed projects would have an over-development risk, including loss of local identity and ownership of commercial space, and no further development of smaller buildings that enable organic redevelopment.

The general needs of the Kings Beach community to enhance the quality of life such as upgraded infrastructure, upgraded library, a community center and a recreation center has not been addressed at all. True redevelopment always accounts for these amenities as coincident with proposed development exceeding $250 million as in Kings Beach.

The Homewood Mountain Resort development will significantly impact the scale and character of that community. The number of tourists will equal, if not exceed, the resident population. The increased traffic, parking, and community infrastructure demands will stress the Homewood community and its environment.

None of the developer applicants has actually done a project through the existing TRPA process. None has the general view of the informed citizen who is without institutional allegiance, personal financial gain, or some other personal agenda.

Few of them live, own personal property, or operate a business in our community.

The North Tahoe Citizen Action Alliance believes implementing the currently planned CEP is reckless abandonment of due process and careful planning that is necessary as was the intent of the Pathway 2007 process for an Outstanding National Resource Water such as Lake Tahoe.