The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board unanimously passed Lake Tahoe’s first area plan at its Wednesday meeting.
The Douglas County South Shore Area Plan is one of many plans under construction in the region that outlines goals for a specific area at Lake Tahoe. The plan specifically assesses the area of the casino corridor, Edgewood Tahoe and nearby businesses and gives developers, government officials and business owners a consistent economic goal.
The newly amended TRPA Regional Plan specifies three priorities, also mentioned in the area plan, which are to accelerate water quality improvements as well as other ecological aspects, transfer permitting processes to local governments — in this case, Douglas County — and create more access routes for pedestrians and cyclists.
The board approved the Douglas County South Shore Area Plan and associated documents, such as code amendments of the plan, the area plan memorandum of understanding and county residential activities within the plan.
“It’s important that people know there are no specific projects proposed and there are no specific mandates,” Douglas County Manager Steve Mokrohisky said, adding the area plan does not change the regulations set by the TRPA Regional Plan Update, which was adopted by the board in December.
Although the TRPA Regional Plan is the main law for development in the Lake Tahoe Basin, it has been challenged by a lawsuit from the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, and a federal judge has yet to make a ruling.
Policies targeted throughout the plan are to continue regional growth where possible, but it is geared more toward promoting redevelopment. The plan also aims to have property owners with development rights transfer rights out of environmentally sensitive areas into main town areas. The incentive for this is that developers would acquire property that has been “retired,” or inactive, for development and increase those development rights two- or threefold when they are moved to high-urban areas.
“The intention of the Regional Plan Update laid the foundation for area plans to consolidate developed urban nodes,” Lake Tahoe area attorney Lew Feldman said.
Feldman said one of the most intense economic planning areas is the South Shore Planning Area, as it hosts some of the biggest businesses and most hotel and accommodation units in the Lake Tahoe basin.
Additionally, the plan aims at not just using those rights in high-urban areas, but rather to create redevelopment on existing structures and businesses.
According to the area plan, the South Shore district has a total of 36,000 square feet of commercial area left for available development, which Mokrohisky said is “basically the size of a large drug store.”
“No one’s arguing that we should be allowed more commercial space,” he said. “Let us take the existing product and let (developers) make investments and improve the built environment.”
Public and private entity collaboration in projects is something that the plan mentions often.
“We have to create incentives to allow businesses to have additional benefits provided and in the process of that,” Mokrohisky said.
With planning for water quality improvements and erosion control, the way in which private-public projects come together is by having have a consistent plan, according to president of Midkiff & Associates Inc. Gary Midkiff, a principal planner and private consultant for planning projects. He said the area plan is just that.
Midkiff said the storm water project in the South Shore Area Plan was constructed 13 years ago with private and public funding in order to help reduce the amount of sediment flowing into the lake.
“On several levels the clear direction of TRPA and the (Douglas) County always helps because uncertainty is a No. 1 obstacle to redevelopment,” Midkiff said, adding the current 20-year-old plan near the Kingsbury and Stateline areas did not address contemporary objectives of private-public projects.
According to TRPA documents, the area plan includes ideas for storm water treatment funding mechanisms.
Mokrohisky said $20 million has been allocated for water quality improvements in the South Shore Area Plan, which could be expended in conjunction with public-private partnerships in improvements.
Despite these assessments, Laurel Ames of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club protested the sediment level claims made by Douglas County as well as assessments of shoreline projects that have recently been completed or approved for completion by TRPA Governing Board members.
Areas of community gathering, commercial areas and other plans to create foot more traffic are all part of the plan as well, but they are still in the wish-list phase. No official plans have been proposed at this time.
“The idea … is to try and consolidate area that is walkable and bikeable, reduce vehicle miles traveled to create a more seamless resort experience for visitors, which also improves air quality and reduces traffic,” Feldman said.
Most of the hypothetical planning is near the Stateline area by Heavenly Village and the nearby contiguous stretch of commerce.