Additional building approved |

Additional building approved

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

More than 150 additional vacant parcels in El Dorado County will become eligible for home construction because of a technical adjustment.

Planners at the Lake Tahoe Basin agreed Wednesday to lower an environmental score that property owners are required to meet before land can be built on. The change to the Individual Parcel Evaluation System, also known as IPES, means the number of parcels eligible for development in the county will increase from 2,896 to 3,049.

Owners still must secure an allocation of development, which allows people to apply for a building permit, before contractors pour any concrete. The waiting list for an allocation is two to three years long.

The adjustment, approved by the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, will also mark the first time since IPES was adopted in 1987 that the line will be lowered on the California side of the basin. It will drop the line in El Dorado County from 726 to 685.

Decreases in an IPES line, which vary for each county at the Lake Tahoe Basin, occur when a county permanently restricts development on sensitive land; makes investments in water quality projects; and follows them up with adequate monitoring.

The agency had announced the line would only decrease to 693, but Tim Hagan, who is in charge of the IPES program, said his calculations did not include 38 parcels of sensitive land retired in 2002.

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The Governing Board held a public hearing before it approved the change for IPES. Michael Donahoe, a member of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, said lowering of the IPES line was not fair because it allows construction on sensitive land when the basin has not achieved any of its environmental goals.

“How can you justify freeing up lots that last year were deemed dangerous to the environment?” Donahoe said. Donahoe added that the monitoring programs that influence the setting of the IPES lines don’t serve their purpose because they don’t produce data that reflects the environmental health of the basin.

Jerome Waldie, a member of the Governing Board from Placerville, pursued Donahoe’s line of questioning but as more facts were established, Waldie, along with the rest of the board, unanimously approved the lowering of the IPES line in El Dorado and Douglas County, where it will be decreased from 408 to 106.

Also Wednesday, the Governing Board approved the release of 248 allocations of development for the upcoming building season. The one vote against the action was that of Larry Sevison, who represents Placer County.

Sevison said officials in Placer County feel as if they are being mistreated by the new allocation system. It links the number of allocations released to jurisdictions at the basin to environmental protection work.

His primary complaint dealt with public transit system link that’s part of the allocation system. He said Placer has an excellent system that serves four counties, yet it received no credit for its transit system under the allocation system. He said he was also irked because for years Placer has used fewer allocations than it received and gotten no credit for that either.

“Did we get to keep those for a rainy day? No,” Sevison said. “(This system) is putting pressure on us to be pro-development. This is a bad program the way it is structured right now.”

When the Governing Board adopted the allocation system in December it required that the TRPA staff revisit any relevant issues in March. Paul Nielsen, a TRPA senior planner, said the system is not set in stone and that different ideas will be presented in March.

Also Wednesday, the Governing Board approved a $50 application fee for property owners on the California side of the basin who want to remove a tree or trees on their land. The $50 fee will provide the service of a licensed forester for up to an hour and the inspection can include more than one tree.

The fee may be temporary because the agency is seeking grant funding to hire forester to do the inspections. In the past, like on the Nevada side of the lake, state foresters did the inspections for the TRPA. But grant funding for the California Department of Forestry dried up in 2001, leaving all the work to TRPA forester Jesse Jones, who has a full-time desk job at the TRPA.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at