LAKE TAHOE - With a little less than a month to go before possible approval, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's Regional Plan Update has attracted widespread support - and stiff opposition.The sweeping plan, which will guide development in the Lake Tahoe Basin for years to come, has been under discussion for the better part of a decade and is expected to be in front of the TRPA's Governing Board for approval Dec. 12.About 65 people voiced support for the plan during meetings on both shores Wednesday and Thursday. Less than a dozen voiced opposition to the RPU during the meetings.Proponents contend regulations under the plan are a key step to moving the basin out of the perpetual state of disrepair and economic decline that has resulted from strict land use policies in place since the late 1980s, while also protecting the environment.The plan will provide the consistency needed by developers to make investments in the area, according to many business owners and operators."We need the RPU approved if we are going to move forward," Chuck Scharer, president and CEO of Edgewood Companies told the Governing Board.One of the major concepts in the plan is providing incentives to move development from sensitive land into existing urban areas designated as town centers.Such incentives are critical to redeveloping run-down properties that do little for the economy and harm the environment by creating stormwater runoff to the lake. Runoff from urban areas carrying fine sediment and algae-promoting nutrients has been identified as the major cause of Lake Tahoe's clarity loss.Ron Parson, with Granlibakken Conference Center & Lodge in Tahoe City, said the resort was among the properties that has suffered because of existing land use regulations. Unlike many though, Parson said the resort has also been able to stay the course and make improvements despite the rules.Like many who support the RPU, Parson acknowledged it's not a cure-all, but said it provides the incentives needed to promote environmental and economic improvements."I don't think this plan is perfect," Parson said. "I think we can move forward with it, and I think it's the right direction."Several people have said the plan represents a compromise between the often divergent interests at Lake Tahoe."Is this the perfect plan? No," said South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Tom Davis. "Is this everything the environmental community wants? Probably not. Is this everything the business community wants? Probably not. Is this workable? Yes. Is it time to pass it? You bet."Not everyone is convinced the plan is ready for passage. North Shore resident Dana Spencer said she is concerned the plan will allow a little too much height, a little too much coverage and a little too much urbanization. She urged the board to put the environment ahead of the economy."Tahoe is a beautiful place and should be protected first and foremost," Spencer said.Laurel Ames, with the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, has been critical of the plan, saying its concepts do not guarantee a cleaner lake and better environment. She told the board the RPU is "littered with loopholes and exceptions.""I think this plan turns many of the protections of the lake and natural resources on its head, and it's very disturbing," Ames said.TRPA spokesman Jeff Cowen said the concerns about overdevelopment are unfounded.Growth caps under the existing regional plan will remain in place under the RPU, Cowen said. The proposal also anticipates the population in the Lake Tahoe Basin's population in 2025 will be less than what it was in 2000, according to the TRPA spokesman.Although the plan calls for increased density in areas designated as town centers to increase alternative transportation like walking and biking, it will also increase the amount of open space found around Lake Tahoe, Cowen said.
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