Agency and builder at odds over lakeshore estate
August 24, 2004
LOGAN SHOALS – It is his dream home on the shore of Lake Tahoe and he wants to get it finished in time to throw a fund-raising dinner there for Rep. Jim Gibbons of Nevada on Sept. 10.
But regulations and permits have set back construction of the estate by about four months, according to Chuck Bluth, 65, a resident of Incline Village who builds homes for a living. Despite the delay, Bluth still plans to have the dinner party.
Tahoe Regional Planning Agency officials say Bluth has done project after project on his East Shore property – the old Logan Shoals Marina, which sits between Glenbrook and Cave Rock – without first getting its approval.
Now after months of failed negotiations to settle the case, it seems the battle is headed to federal court.
If the TRPA wins, it could result in Bluth being charged $5,000 a day per violation. TRPA staff says it first discovered violations on the Bluth property in August 2003.
The TRPA got permission from its Governing Board to sue Bluth over the alleged violations in May, but the agency didn’t file the suit until earlier this month. But Bluth says there is no way he will pay a $150,000 to $200,000 fine, the amount that he says the TRPA wants to settle the case.
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“(Staff members) have a problem with successful, wealthy people,” said Bluth, who owns the Cal-Neva Resort and a home at Incline Village. “We have a target on our back. The fines are not based on the offense. They are based on an ability to pay, which is the most un-American statement I’ve ever heard.”
The only work Bluth acknowledged doing without a TRPA permit was the landscaping around his home, which includes a waterfall and floating tea house. Bluth said he agreed to pay a $50,000 fine for not delivering an accurate landscaping plan, but said he has not been able to reach an agreement with the TRPA because it claims he has committed a slew of other violations.
A TRPA staff report indicates Bluth filled in a 200-yard area behind his home containing it with a boulder retaining wall that sits on the beach. Bluth said he had a permit for the work. The TRPA says he did not.
In addition, Bluth said he believes that he should get credit for the work he did to restore the old marina behind his new home, which he said was “an environmental disaster.” He had an old pier removed and filled 12 Dumpsters of trash and moved it out of the marina area. Bluth also pointed out that the marina now has 15 boats slips instead of the 35 it once contained.
The TRPA says Bluth also installed a pump house, boulder waterfall and a pond on the east side of his house without a permit and changed the slope of his driveway without permission. Bluth denies that he didn’t have permission to do the work. The TRPA also says that Bluth repeatedly ignored orders issued by the agency to cease construction on his property.
Despite previous failed attempts to settle the case, the TRPA says it still wants to resolve the case outside of court.
“We’re going to wait and see how things proceed,” said Julie Regan, TRPA communications director. “We been meeting for months and months trying to get this resolved.
“These are major violations and we are taking them very seriously. The rules apply across the board to everyone in the basin, for small homeowners and for larger projects.”
Bluth said he will not settle the case and that by battling the TRPA in court he hopes to improve the lives of property owners in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
“Every time they’ve asked for something I’ve provided it to them,” Bluth said. “So it looks like the lawsuit is going forward. I am going to be taking the TRPA to court on this and show their enforcement is performed on a selective basis. The rules are not followed consistently and the staff is out of control.”
– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at email@example.com