Appeals court hears Sierra Colina arguments
September 13, 2012
A panel of federal court judges heard oral arguments this week over a proposed residential development in Douglas County.
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals listened to arguments in League to Save Lake Tahoe v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, et al. in San Francisco on Monday.
The appeal challenges approval of the Sierra Colina Village project, an 18-acre, 50-unit development of single and multifamily homes off Lake Village Drive. The development has been tied up in the court system since shortly after TRPA approval in June 2009.
The League filed the appeal in September 2011, following a lower court ruling that would have allowed the development to proceed.
Representatives of the environmental group have argued a 22-foot-wide, U-shaped driveway through the development is primarily a private road and was inappropriately designated as a public facility by the TRPA.
The designation excluded the road from land coverage calculations used by the agency to limit erosion entering the lake.
“Right now they have too much coverage on the site consistent with the regs,” Michael Lozeau, an attorney representing the League, said of the proposed project.
Proponents have argued the road is primarily public, will aid emergency response to the area and serve surrounding residents by providing a missing link in the South Shore’s network of bike paths.
“Very simply, it’s going to be used by bicyclists and pedestrians from other locations,” Tina Thomas, an attorney for Sierra Colina LLC, told the panel. “And I think there is a lot of evidence in the record to show that.”
During Monday’s hearing, judge Marsha Berzon said she had concerns with the number of bicyclists who would use the road compared to the number of cars. Proponents have argued the road has the potential to be used by more than 5,000 residents in the area.
“I think bike paths are really important to the people who use them, but if you’re looking at numbers, you know, the fact that there are 5,000 people there does not mean there’s going to be 5,000 uses of the bike path,” Berzon said.
Following Monday’s arguments, the court took the case under submission. The court does not have a time limit for filing a decision, but most cases are decided within three months to a year of oral arguments, according to the court.
Thomas said that, even if the appeal is denied, the project is probably several years from construction due to economic conditions.