Opinion: Tahoe Biltmore shell game? | SierraSun.com

Opinion: Tahoe Biltmore shell game?

The Tahoe Biltmore on Oct. 5 hosted a meeting ostensibly to review plans for the tiny “park,” promoted as “public” at the time, that was part of the Boulder Bay negotiation for final approval by the TRPA of its large forthcoming development on the Biltmore site, and was a contribution in consideration of additional entitlements in the form of extra height and density.

The meeting ultimately revealed this is a shell game. In a shell game, the objective is to guess where the ball may be under one of three positions. In this Boulder Bay variant, you have to decide whether the new “park” is public, private or some hybrid. Next, you have to guess whether the “park” is going to be publicly funded, privately funded, or something in between.

The stakes here are pretty big — as much as $500,000, although Washoe County officials have not made any final decision on whether or not to fund this project.

That $500,000 comes from residential construction fees, which are required to be used specifically for a park in Crystal Bay (the community from which the funds were gleaned). The funds do not have to be used in any specific time period, however; using them for things like hiking trails on a miniscule “park” (6 parking spaces!) is clearly a waste of money with very little benefit to the Crystal Bay community, but great benefit to the developer, who apparently will be able to add ­— at no cost and despite their earlier promise to build a public park — an additional on-site amenity for their high-paying future homeowners and visitors.

One of the trademarks of a shell game is that even armed with all the information, you still can¹t beat the game. The owners of the game always have a single objective: take all the money and avoid giving up any of their own. Who says gaming is on the decline in Crystal Bay?

Steve Pearsall

Crystal Bay