City wants TRPA to ease building rules | TahoeDailyTribune.com

City wants TRPA to ease building rules

Susan Wood

Exerting its political might over Pathway 2007, the City Council wants to throw out its land-use coverage rules to accommodate redevelopment in some areas of town.

South Lake Tahoe Councilman Hal Cole made an impassioned plea Tuesday to change the rules that prohibit more than a third of commercial and residential property being covered for environmental reasons as regulated by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“It’s made it difficult for families to enlarge,” Cole said, adding some people have illegally installed decks onto their homes. Decks are considered coverage.

“The rules have created criminals out of our community,” Cole said, insisting he’s speaking as a city councilman and not as a contractor.

The TRPA-spawned blueprint that outlines the future of Lake Tahoe shows there’s much at stake over the next 20 years.

With that, the South Lake Tahoe City Council has come up with a working document of “smart growth” principles that would fit into its general plan. The city will update its own guiding blueprint for planning in 2005, two years before TRPA’s regional plan affecting the entire lake is due to come out.

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Among the city’s ideas, Cole mentioned deleting the land-use restrictions in its existing subdivisions such as Sierra Tract and Highland Woods.

Coverage rules restrict developers and property owners from covering their lots with hard, permanent materials such as asphalt and concrete.

But the problem lies in the multitude of structures with small footprints. Homeowners have found if they want to expand they need to go up another floor or move away – to either county areas like Christmas Valley or off the hill to another state. The Carson area has seen an influx of Tahoe transplants.

The fellow TRPA governing board member had support from Councilman John Upton.

“That’s the direction we need to go,” he said.

The council appointed a subcommittee to determine how to go about generating response from its citizens and taking its wish list of proposed changes to the TRPA. The city met with the overriding bistate agency three weeks ago to start the discussions.

“We want the (partnership) agencies to think outside the box for the next regional plan, but we’re also not looking at changing the rules overnight to throw the community into chaos,” TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan said Tuesday afternoon.

Regan cautioned that the science would need to prove the lake wouldn’t be impacted to the point of no return. Lake clarity now sits at 74 feet, while the goal is 100.

“We need to explore what would happen with the clarity. Covering up the earth does affect lake clarity,” she said.

There’s apparently some give and take.

The agency monitors substances such as fine sediment, phosphorus and nitrogen that can lead to the blue lake turning green.

If one restriction is eased, another would have to offset the impact.

Harold Singer agreed. The executive director of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board knows interested parties will be vying to make their positions known in influencing the document. Singer said he’s open to the discussion of relaxing the coverage rules.

“It’s a concept. Whether or not I support it or not is immaterial. Maybe there are areas we can modify,” he said Tuesday.

The city is not alone in making plans to influence the process. The South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Douglas chamber of commerce have set up fund-raisers to help pay for a technical and legal consultant to represent their board’s interests.

The council appointed Tuesday a subcommittee of Cole and Upton to explore how to request public opinion over planning issues that range from land use and transportation to open space and recreation.

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