A change in land-use regulations is in the works | TahoeDailyTribune.com

A change in land-use regulations is in the works

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is working on a program that should help improve problems in a land-use regulation for which the bistate authority was just sued.

John Marshall, TRPA legal counsel, explained to the agency’s advisory board Wednesday a conceptual plan which could be incorporated into its Individual Parcel Evaluation System, or IPES program.

With the threat of a lawsuit looming for months, TRPA and others have long been trying to find a solution.

“We all kind of rallied behind this system,” Marshall said.

At the soonest, TRPA’s governing board could approve the plan in February. Before it goes into effect, however, the agency will need the support of the California State Water Quality Control Board and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That may take six months or longer.

A Lake Tahoe property rights group and 252 land owners filed suit against TRPA last week, alleging that because of the IPES program TRPA has unconstitutionally taken their property.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe and California Attorney General’s Office, both of which have strongly opposed scrapping the IPES program, have been involved in the planning.

“The purpose of the system, to be blunt, is to come up with a system that would keep us from being sued from the other side, the League and the AG’s office, and to put us in a better defensive posture (for the current lawsuit),” Marshall said.

TRPA has scored all vacant private land at Tahoe since 1987 using IPES as a way for the agency to limit residential development.

The way the program was created, if certain requirements were met, counties’ IPES lines could lower, which would allow building to happen on more sensitive parcels.

The primary way the lines could lower is by having agencies such as the California Tahoe Conservancy or Forest Service buy environmentally sensitive lots. However, such purchases haven’t happened as much as officials had planned.

The IPES lines have moved on the Nevada side of the basin but never in California, which the plaintiffs of the lawsuit call an illegal “taking” of property. If government takes land, under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, the property owners should be reimbursed.

The plan being worked out now would give people who own currently undevelopable land the right to build. Land owners could earn credits on their property by seeing to it that other environmentally sensitive IPES lots are bought by either the Conservancy or Forest Service and become public land. For example, someone whose property has a low IPES score, or is very sensitive, could earn enough credits only if four properties of the same sensitivity were retired. Someone whose property has a higher IPES score, or one that isn’t as sensitive, may only need to retire one very sensitive lot or more not-so-sensitive lots.

The theory is that some building would happen, and, because more sensitive parcels are being taken out of the market, the line would drop faster at the same time.

“Conceptually, I think the system is a good one,” said Randy Lane, TRPA planning commissioner.

Marshall said there is a lot that needs to be worked out still, such as whether credits can be given between counties or if different-sized parcels would be considered the same.

The agency’s governing board will hear an update on the plan later this month.

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