Agency vows to avoid building moratorium |

Agency vows to avoid building moratorium

At the end of this year, Tahoe’s system for distributing building rights, which fuels the region’s development and real estate industry, will expire. And so far there’s nothing to take its place.

“If we don’t have a temporary plan, we’ll go into a de facto moratorium and it would create that ill will that we are trying to avoid on all counts,” said John Falk, advocate for the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is working on a proposal for a temporary allocation system, which its Governing Board must approve by the end of this year to avoid limbo.

“There is no need for the public to panic,” said TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan in an e-mail. “Our goal is to provide a seamless transition into the next regional plan.”

All the fuss comes because adoption of Tahoe’s new regional plan has been delayed until at least 2008, while the old one expires this year.

The TRPA has identified 587 unused allocations from its 1987 regional plan and, pending board approval, will continue to hand these out according to the current system until a new regional plan is approved.

The agency allots between 200 and 300 building rights a year, so they have at most a three-year cushion.

TRPA cannot create more allocations than the last regional plan allows without a lengthy environmental review or it would likely face legal challenges.

And that’s a familiar story in Tahoe.

Legal fights over the last regional plan delayed its implementation and resulted in a building moratorium for three years.

And that uncertainty has some landowners scrambling to apply for allocations in Placer County, which could make waiting lists surge, Falk said.

Because development is limited in the Lake Tahoe Basin, land owners must obtain a building allocation to develop their property. The allocation is not a building permit, it’s a right to build. In South Shore, the wait for an allocation is at least five to six years.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe is concerned the temporary system could change the way TRPA grants commercial allocations. It wants the agency to put together a stakeholders group to get input on the proposal.

“The League has many questions and concerns about the environmental consequences of the interim allocation system, particularly in regard to major changes proposed for distributing 150,000 square feet of commercial floor area,” program director John Friedrich wrote in an e-mail. “Will big box stores be eligible for new commercial floor area allocations? Why rush to create a new system … before agreement on a new regional plan is reached – a plan that might have different rules and priorities?”

Forty-three community representatives are working on Pathway 2007, which will create the next regional plan.

Falk said another stakeholders group is not necessary. But he felt a temporary system is needed as soon as possible so people can focus on the larger issue of Pathway. He was confident the regional plan is on track for approval in 2008.

Friedrich was less optimistic for the short term.

“It’s a matter of finding a balance between getting things approved in a timely way, and making sure what is proposed for approval makes sense. The more that changes are being proposed to current systems – as is the case with the commercial floor area allocations – the more red flags will be raised,” Friedrich said.

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