California and Nevada reached a historic agreement over Lake Tahoe this week with the passage of an extensive plan designed to shape development at the lake for years to come.
The Tahoe Regional Planning's Governing Board approved an update to its 1987 Regional Plan by a 12-1 vote late Wednesday afternoon. California board member Mara Bresnick was the lone vote against the plan update, which has been under discussion for the better part of a decade.
Supporters have billed the RPU as a catalyst to improving Lake Tahoe's environment and its struggling economy, while critics contend the RPU goes too far in changing stringent rules regulating land use at the lake.
Updated regulations in the plan will allow investment in outdated properties that harm Lake Tahoe by allowing excess fine sediment and nutrient runoff to reach the lake and cloud its waters, according to proponents.
"The reality is we need to take the old that is not working and redesign it so it is working to the benefit of the lake," said Douglas County Commissioner and Governing Board member Nancy McDermid.
TRPA's policies have long been criticized as impacting investment and renewal by being unnecessarily strict and inconsistent.
"Approval of this plan is critical to moving our community to a bright future," Andy Chapman, chief marketing officer of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, told the Governing Board Wednesday.
The Tahoe Area Sierra Club has been one of the most vocal opponents of the plan as proposed Wednesday and has contended the RPU does not do enough to make progress on the TRPA's wide-ranging environmental goals, known as thresholds.
"Thresholds first, then development that is consistent with those thresholds," said Sierra Club member Michael Donahoe, pointing to a recent legal ruling on TRPA's proposed near shore regulations that emphasized the agency's requirement to achieve the goals.
Representatives of the group, as well as Lake Tahoe Basin residents who oppose the plan, said the changes approved Wednesday will lead to detrimental increases in height, density and coverage around the lake.
Whether Wednesday's approval will stand or will face a lengthy court challenge, as many controversial Lake Tahoe Basin decisions have in the past, remains to be seen.
Wendy Park, an attorney with the law firm Earthjustice, was quoted in a press release from the Sierra Club Wednesday.
"Earthjustice has represented local interests and conservation groups in the past to protect the lake and regions around its shoreline from unbridled construction and development," Park said. "The population of California is growing rapidly and Lake Tahoe needs stronger, not weaker, protections to stay the very special mountain lake everyone cherishes."
California board member Byron Sher, who has voiced numerous concerns with the RPU, abstained from Wednesday's vote, saying he will submit his resignation from the board Thursday. Sher cited personal problems, as well as concerns with the RPU, in announcing the decision.