New TRPA policy has an instant impact
April 27, 2005
STATELINE – Communication rules designed to make the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency operate more fairly were approved Wednesday.
The rules require board members to disclose the existence and content of their communication with members of the public if it takes place outside the setting of a board meeting, and if it is relevant to the issue being voted on.
Before the rules were adopted, which did not happen until around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the proposed policy prompted two board members to disclose telephone calls they received from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office regarding land owned by Larry Ruvo, a prominent Glenbrook resident.
“Ruvo and his attorney expressed concern (to the governor’s office) that the board was not receiving factual data from staff,” said Steven Merrill, a Governing Board member recently appointed by Schwarzenegger.
Ruvo owns a chunk of land on the shore of Lake Tahoe at Glenbrook, a gated community on the East Shore. He has battled with the agency for more than a decade over what type of soil is under a meadow on his property.
The TRPA relies on the classification of soil types in the Lake Tahoe Basin to determine whether land is suitable for development. But under the Compact – a bistate agreement that established the agency in 1969 to manage growth in the basin and protect the lake – property owners have the right to challenge TRPA soil classifications through an appeals process, an option Ruvo has pursued for more than 10 years.
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But on Wednesday, after an intense two-hour discussion, the board voted in Ruvo’s favor, accepting soils data presented by his experts instead of backing on data provided by the agency.
The ruling will likely save Ruvo thousands of dollars in environmental impact fees. Exactly how much money he saves depends on what remodeling and other structural work he has planned for his 38 acre property, said Julie Regan, TRPA communications director.
The message relayed by Merrill earlier in the meeting about the concern expressed by governor’s office had to do with a soil survey done for the Ruvo property.
Ruvo’s attorney, Leif Reid, son of Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, contacted the governor’s office to inform people there that the agency improperly withheld the results of the survey – done by an outside consultant hired by the TRPA – from the board.
Tim Hagan, TRPA soils scientist, told his board that the soil survey was not purposely withheld from Ruvo’s attorney. The survey, he said, wasn’t delivered sooner because the agency is strapped for resources.
The issues of soil classification was last discussed by the board in January. It was then that staff at the agency asked its board to suspend a landowner’s right to challenge soil classifications until 2007, the deadline for regulatory agencies to come up with a new 20-year plan for the basin.
Staff argued that the process had become a loophole exploited by property owners to develop more land. The board rejected the proposal deciding it wouldn’t be fair to landowners in the basin.
Also at the meeting on Wednesday, the Governing Board:
— Offered the job of lead attorney at the TRPA to Joanne Marchetta. She lives in Berkeley and works as the assistant general counsel for a federal government corporation created by Congress in 1996 to convert the Presidio of San Francisco from an Army base to a financially self-sufficient national park. Marchetta told the board she would let them know within 10 days if she planned to take the job.
— Accepted an award from the Nevada Fire Safe Council for the TRPA’s work on forest management projects for the basin.
— Declared May “Clean Water Month.”
– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org