Appeals court tosses out TRPA case |

Appeals court tosses out TRPA case

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

A lawsuit against a grading system that determines if land can be developed in the Lake Tahoe Basin was dismissed Friday by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco because it wasn’t filed in a timely manner.

The system called IPES — Individual Parcel Evaluation System — was adopted by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in 1987 to regulate “the where, the when and the how” of building at the basin, according to John Marshall, TRPA lead attorney.

The appeal, filed about five months ago by North Shore attorney Larry Hoffman, affirms the dismissal of the lawsuit by the Eastern District Court in July 2000.

The suit claimed the TRPA had taken private property without providing any compensation to owners. The IPES system on the California side of the basin had not changed since 1987, and that, Hoffman argued, constituted the taking of property because if the score doesn’t change, building is not allowed.

Hoffman was out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Hoffman’s case, filed on behalf of the Tahoe Sierra Preservation Council, saying it should have been filed shortly after the TRPA adopted its regional plan, which contained the IPES system, in 1987.

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“I describe it as another sign that the basin look forward rather than to battles of the past,” Marshall said. “There is a strong public policy value in resolving legal issues on land use plans early in the life of the plan so everybody knows what the rules are.”

Environmental experts inspect a property before they assign it an IPES score, which indicates how sensitive the land would be to development. Until last week, when the IPES line decrease was approved for El Dorado County, property on the California side of the basin could only be developed if a parcel received an IPES score greater than 726.

Last week’s IPES line adjustment for El Dorado, from 726 to 685, occurred primarily because the county retired a number of its most sensitive parcels. The adjustment marks the first time an IPES line has dropped on the California side of the basin.

Things have been just the opposite for IPES lines set on the Nevada side of the basin. They have dropped consistently since the TRPA adopted the grading system because there is less land available on that side of the basin and because work to preserve a certain number of sensitive parcels was completed in the mid-1990s.

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