TRUCKEE, Calif. - A proposed renovation of the Tahoe Donner-owned Beach Club Marina on the east end of Donner Lake has sparked environmental concerns among the association's homeowners and some environmental groups.
To address concerns and gather feedback from homeowners about the project, Tahoe Donner officials held a meeting on Sept. 28. The main issue appears to be the proposed cutting down of trees at the marina site within Tahoe Donner, a 7,000-acre homeowner association that features both public and private amenities such as a golf course, cross country trails and tennis courts, in order to make way for area renovations.
"What happened was when we marked some trees to be removed, that's when everything become very contentious," said Tom Johns, president of the Tahoe Donner Board of Directors, in an interview with the Sun. "What we have there right now is there are 121 trees in the marina area, and we want to take out 19 of those trees.
"... When all this came up, some homeowners expressed concern, and the Sierra Club, and also, locally, the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation got involved."
According to a report from the association's head forester, Bill Houdyschell, which was cited at the meeting attended by roughly 50 Tahoe Donner members, the goal of the original design was to save as many healthy trees as possible. Six of the 19 trees would be removed for non-forest health reasons, according to the report, one of which is split and considered hazardous.
Some homeowners at the meeting asked if more trees, especially the healthy ones, could be saved, according to the meeting's minutes.
"With a few modifications we can save a number of trees," said Patricia Schifferle, a resident of Tahoe Donner, in an earlier interview with the Sun.
Officials said they are still looking at modifying the project's designs to see if more trees can be saved. There is also a plan to replant vegetation in the area once the project is complete, Johns said.
"Everything will be indigenous to this area," he said. "There's no outside, non-native species being introduced."
One question asked at the meeting was why planting non-native species of plants and trees had been considered.
According to the meeting's minutes, the association's basic response was: "In going through the regulatory process, this was a plan the consultant came up with in the interest of timeliness. It was clear from the beginning the board directed only native species."
As the proposal stands, a new terrace will be constructed, the deck will be expanded with new glass installed to block the wind for diners and the upper picnic area will be enlarged while making it ADA compliant. Grading and drainage improvements will also be made to reduce current beach erosion problems.
"The marina is one of our most used areas, and if you go down there on a summer weekend, you can barely get in the place, and we do need more room," said Johns, who added that the renovations were decided upon based on feedback from homeowners who attended past board meetings.
The proposed changes have been met with mostly positive reviews, said Robb Etnyre, general manager of Tahoe Donner.
"Overall, homeowners are very excited about the project," he said in an earlier interview with the Sun.
As for one of the improvements called for by homeowners - more parking at the marina site - Johns said "not much" can be done about it "in the near future."
According to the Sept. 28 meeting's minutes, an attendee agreed that the modifications planned are good, but was concerned they may make the limited parking issue at the Beach Club Marina worse.
Etnyre said in a phone interview that the town of Truckee has approved the eligibility of road service level enhancement funds, which Tahoe Donner homeowners contribute to, so the dirt parking area for the marina - property owned by the town - can be improved in terms of drainage, erosion and pedestrian safety. He said the association and the town are still "scoping out the details of the project."
As far as creating new parking, he said there are "not many options," but expanding parking adjacent to the marina is being considered.
Etnyre said homeowner feedback from the meeting is still being reviewed.
"As we refine our plans we will be discussing any modification with our general plan committee and board of directors along with membership and meeting with other interested external interest groups," he said. "This will likely take place over the course of (October) and November."
A project review before the Truckee Planning Commission was planned for Sept. 18, but was postponed by the Tahoe Donner Board in order to get additional membership feedback and to clear up any misinformation, officials said in a press release in September, which led to the Sept. 28 meeting.
According to the meeting's minutes, the planning commission would review the updated marina project plan in March 2013. The town will have to evaluate the "appropriate level of environmental review" for the project, which it did with the association's previous project proposal, finding it "exempt from the more rigorous environmental review."
"As before, the level of environmental study the town deems appropriate will be undertaken," according to the meeting's minutes.
Assuming project approval, the association would begin project renovations in May, with an anticipated completion date prior to the Fourth of July weekend.