Regional industry leaders speak to future of Tahoe economy, environment
March 25, 2010
Thesis, antithesis and synthesis. The recent history of Tahoe features an initial period of expansive developmental growth, followed by a period marked by aggressive shrinking of the local economy.
The future of the region requires a bold synthesis of the philosophies behind those two preceding periods – what propelled growth, and what environmental efficiencies were gained during the downturn, said a local official during a recent meeting between top representatives from the private and public sector.
Joanne Marchetta, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, advocated for a new partnership between local business owners, environmental organizations and government agencies during a presentation entitled “State of the Tahoe Basin Educational Briefing: A Snapshot of the Environment, Economy and the Community” given at the Thursday, March 25, meeting of the TRPA’s governing board.
“We have reached a crossroads in Tahoe,” said Marchetta. “The decisions we make now will impact the future of this beautiful place.”
Marchetta said that instead of local government agencies acting as a barrier to the private sector and vice versa, a new spirit of cooperation with a focus on environmentally sound redevelopment must emerge to ensure Tahoe’s oft cited triple bottom line (environment, economy and community) remains in a state of healthy balance.
Representatives from the private sector in attendance agreed.
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John Koster, Regional President of Harrah’s Northern Nevada, said the traditional view of big business as responsible for environmental degradation is outdated.
“We are an environmentally focused company,” he said. “We share many of the TRPA’s goals and recognize that with the decline of gaming, geotourism will be the number one attraction for prospective visitors. In the past, environmental organizations view big business as the evil empire, whereas big business views environmental groups as barriers to progress. We need to start to work together.”
Mike Bradford, president of Lakeside Inn and Casino in Stateline, Nev., said geotourists who connect with the aesthetics of Lake Tahoe’s environment and its culture and heritage will come from farther away, stay longer and spend more money and are vital to Tahoe’s economic prosperity.
“The geotourist is replacing the gaming visitor,” said Bradford.
Bradford said this trend has caused most local businesses to realize the importance of protecting the environmental character of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Attending representatives from the private sector unanimously recommended the TRPA improve its project approval process, saying businesses are often deterred from attempting redevelopment projects because of the time consuming and costly application process.
“The private sector is paralyzed because of these restrictions,” said Bradford.
Blaise Carrig, COO of Heavenly Mountain Resort, said the TRPA project approval process needs more transparency, predictability and efficiency.
“We’re not asking you to ignore important environmental components of the application process, but we believe you can be faster, more efficient and provide more insight into what stands a chance of getting approved,” said Carrig.
Carrig said business owners were not looking for assurances of project approval, but guidance and advice.
Chairman of the TRPA governing board Allen Biaggi said the recommendations were an important step as the board continues to give direction to staff regarding the Regional Plan Update.
“The testimony today was informative and eye-opening …,” he said.
Marchetta vowed to take the private sector representatives’ advice when moving forward on crafting the land usage component to the Regional Plan Update, which will be discussed at the next TRPA meeting on Wednesday, April 14.
“We will use the information collected today to inform land use implementation policies, which, in turn, will dictate what Lake Tahoe will look like in the next 10, 20 and 100 years,” she said.