Guest column: Tahoe is being captured by special interests |

Guest column: Tahoe is being captured by special interests

Ann Nichols

The latest TRPA spin piece titled, “TRPA’s 21st Century Role is Fostering Regional Cooperation” once again incredulously fails to include any detail of the content of the proposed new Regional Plan. It’s a lengthy bit of green washing that spews all the right catch phrases. Terms like “TMDL,” “storm water infiltration,” “greenhouse gases” and “invasive species” are thrown around like candy. You’d think TRPA is doing “God’s Work,” but what you have to pay attention to is what the PR piece doesn’t say.

It doesn’t mention:

• TRPA, at the behest of Nevada Gaming interests, proposes in the new Regional Plan Update to potentially allow casino structures be a maximum of 197 feet in height in the South Shore casino core in Stateline.

• South Lake Tahoe wanted more 95-foot-high structures … not a problem.

• The rest of the Town Centers (Incline, Kings Beach, Tahoe City, Meyers) could allow 56-foot-high buildings with provisions for more height. A good example of a big bulky structure is the new Domas affordable housing building across from the Caliente restaurant in Kings Beach. It’s 48 feet high and overwhelms the surrounding area.

• If approved, the RPU would increasing the potential allowed density for hotel, fractional and timeshare units by a whopping 160 percent. Multi-family concentration will increase 60 percent.

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• The counties will have sole jurisdiction over large residential developments 50,000 square feet or less in areas like Incline and Kings Beach. The Kings Beach Safeway is 38,000 sq. ft. Placer County’s Kings Beach biomass plant and the Washoe County tax revolt illustrates why county control is a problem for Tahoe. To the counties, Tahoe is just a revenue stream.

• In the plan, TRPA proposes to rezone 250-plus acres owned by the Edgewood Companies on the South Shore from conservation or open space to potentially allow single family, hotel, timeshare and commercial. How many other open space properties do you think will be developed once this precedent is set?

• TRPA is also a proposing to rezone 52 acres at the top of Ski Run Boulevard owned by Vail Resorts to single family, hotel, fractional/timeshare or commercial. There’s the spirit of cooperation.

• TRPA is promoting the conversion of soft coverage (dirt roads) to hard coverage (asphalt). What will happen to the lake if California Tahoe Conservancy coverage inventory (millions of square feet) were to be used for large development?

The RPU, if approved as proposed, sets a bad precedent for the future of Lake Tahoe. It would allow communities who could be swayed by big developer and resort association special interests to submit proposals that include towering structures that further encroach on our lands. It’s likely only a matter of time before these proposals get approved by future County and TRPA boards.

Approval of this ill-conceived plan is slated for November or December of 2012. If you want your children to be able to enjoy this beautiful, one-of-a-kind basin, with its unparalleled majestic waters and spectacular mountain setting, please speak up now – before it’s too late.

– Ann Nichols is a 42-year resident of the North Shore, a Real Estate Broker, president of the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance and member of the Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Committee. She can be reached at

Editor’s note

Upon fact-checking some of information included in this column with TRPA staff to ensure accuracy, the Tribune has determined three of the bullet points below contain misinformation.

First, in regard to 95-foot structures at South Lake Tahoe, this only pertains in the Regional Center area from Ski Run Boulevard to Stateline in South Lake Tahoe.

Second, regarding potential proposed density increases of 160 percent and 60 percent, density changes are only proposed in areas designated as Town Centers – 10 locations largely along the highways around the lake, plus two additional areas on the south shore (the one mile-long area from Ski Run Blvd. to Stateline and the casino core area).

Third, in regard to counties having jurisdiction on large developments, while local governments would have the potential to take on more permitting responsibilities, project sizes would vary based on whether it’s commercial or residential. Furthermore, while local governments could review commercial projects up to 40,000 square feet, TRPA will retain permitting authority for lakefront properties and all properties in the casino core.

Also, in an effort to ensure appropriate clarification, many of the land use provisions in the Regional Plan Update would not take effect upon its adoption, but rather when local governments proposed Area Plans that would have to be approved by the TRPA Governing Board.

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