Monthly message from the mayor: The regional plan cleared a critical hurdle |

Monthly message from the mayor: The regional plan cleared a critical hurdle

Claire Fortier

No fanfare. No high fives. Not even a story in the local press.

Yet an unprecedented moment in Lake Tahoe history transpired last week that may shape the Tahoe Basin for decades to come. That moment was the agreement reached by the bi-state consultation group, which should serve as the foundation for the new Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s regional plan.

But first a little history lesson.

The TRPA has been trying for almost a decade to reach a consensus on a new plan that would balance environmental gain with rebuilding the antiquated and deteriorating infrastructure of our 1950s car-centric development.

The planning process started with Pathways 2007, when hundreds of local residents, second homeowners, businesspeople and visitors outlined what they wanted Tahoe to look like 20 years down the road. The regional plan process stalled and started several times.

Finally, Nevada threw down the gauntlet last year with the passage of SB 271, a bill that the required completion of a regional plan by the end of 2012. That sparked fireworks in Sacramento. California and Nevada appeared headed to a showdown over the future of Lake Tahoe.

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As the TRPA Regional Plan subcommittee worked valiantly on the details of a new regional plan, the areas of impasse threatened to sidetrack progress. That’s when California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird and Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Director Leo Drozdoff quietly stepped in.

Under their leadership, a small group of stakeholders – developers, environmentalists, local government, state and TRPA Governing Board representatives – sat together for many long and often contentious meetings to see if those areas of profound disagreement could be resolved.

The great news is that Laird and Drozdoff pulled off a feat that often eludes us at Lake Tahoe: They found agreement. That agreement, which addressed everything from building height to drive-up windows, bike friendly town centers and decks and stream environmental zones, was a masterful compromise. The two state representatives were able to push past those areas of discomfort for all sides involved to forge an agreement that gave every side bragging rights and constraints.

Recently, this bi-state consultation agreement was adopted by the TRPA Regional Plan subcommittee and will be passed on to the TRPA Governing Board.

Why is this a big deal? First, and perhaps most importantly, both Nevada and California were able to unite in support of the Tahoe Basin. The future of Tahoe has been re-established as a collective vision, not a battleground over regulations vs. state rights. And that will benefit all of us, but most importantly is will help all of us preserve the lake’s environment while enabling us to rebuild our economy and our communities.

Secondly, it provides the road map for this generation to create a vibrant and beautiful place to live or visit for the next generation. By giving local jurisdictions some control of their own destiny, we can preserve local character while enhancing our capacity to envision our future.

Finally, it proves we actually can come to a consensus, even in a place that can be as highly divisive as Tahoe. Let’s not squander this opportunity. The Regional Plan needs to reach the finish line and that means we all need to cooperate, not wallow in discord.

– Claire Fortier is the mayor of South Lake Tahoe.

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