Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s 15-member Governing Board unanimously approved the city of South Lake Tahoe’s Tourist Core Area Plan at its monthly meeting Wednesday.
The 169-page plan lays out redevelopment goals for the tourist core, an area that includes about two miles of Highway 50 corridor from Fairway Avenue at Bijou to Stateline and also extends up Ski Run Boulevard to Pioneer Trail.
It’s the second area plan approved as part of a legally contested Regional Plan Update the TRPA enacted in 2012, and follows the adoption of a South Shore Area Plan for Douglas County in September.
The Regional Plan Update gives local governments a chance to adopt area plans and assume more responsibility for environmental restoration and project permitting as long as they meet TRPA standards and targets. As area plans are adopted in allowable locations around the Lake Tahoe Basin they become part of the Regional Plan.
The goal is to continue to improve Lake Tahoe’s water quality with environmentally friendly redevelopment and quality of life improvements in targeted areas such as South Lake Tahoe’s tourist core.
“We are seeing the start of an environmental renaissance in Tahoe,” Joanne Marchetta, executive director of TRPA, said in a news release about the area plan’s adoption. “A spirit of renewal is evident all around, and the community-based vision of more bikeable, walkable and visually appealing centers for the city of South Lake Tahoe is now ready to guide future investment in an environmentally responsible way.”
Not everyone supports the approach. Tahoe Area Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore are challenging the Regional Plan Update in federal court, arguing it fails to protect Lake Tahoe’s environment. TRPA is due to respond to the challenge in court next week.
But the Tourist Core Area Plan saw a showing of community support Wednesday from groups such as the TahoeChamber, Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and League to Save Lake Tahoe.
South Lake Tahoe Mayor Tom Davis said it’s a plan the city can work with to try to correct past development mistakes. He and several other people expressed disappointment with the lawsuit filed by Tahoe Area Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore.
“This moves us forward with tremendous safeguards and gives us a shot to revitalize in a confined area,” Davis said about the plan. “We have to rely on public-private partnerships. This gives us a tool to do that.”
The area plan includes a package of incentive programs to help attract private investment for environmental redevelopment.
Incentives include relaxed lot coverage, building height and density rules as well as enhanced development rights transfers and “bonus units” for eligible projects that transfer development out of marshes, meadows, wetlands and other sensitive areas and into targeted areas.
With several revisions proposed by TRPA, the area plan returns to the South Lake Tahoe City Council for final approval.
City officials must craft a memorandum of understanding with TRPA to administer the plan, but are holding off on that task as they continue working on a Tahoe Valley Area Plan centered around the “Y” intersection of highways 50 and 89.
The goal is to craft one memorandum that works for both area plans and create a streamlined city permitting process for projects within their boundaries, said Hilary Roverud, the city’s director of development services.
TRPA retains permitting authority for projects that exceed square footage thresholds or are considered regional in nature, as well as projects located in shore zones or conservation and high-density tourist districts.