Basin agency may employ hearing officer |

Basin agency may employ hearing officer

Patrick McCartney

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency may ask developers to pitch their projects to a hearing officer instead of the agency’s governing board, in an effort to make the powerful agency easier to work with.

By meeting twice a month, a hearing officer would be more accessible to basin residents than the governing board, which meets just once a month, said Rick Angelocci, the agency’s streamline program manager.

“A hearing officer would give applicants a quicker route through the system,” Angelocci said. “And appearing before the advisory planning commission or the governing board can be intimidating.”

The proposal, which could come before the board within months, was one of a number of strategies Angelocci outlined Wednesday at a governing board meeting in South Lake Tahoe.

The agency has tried to delegate many of its planning responsibilities to local governments over the last two years, developing memoranda of understanding with all jurisdictions with the exception of Douglas County.

As part of an agreement with California legislators last year, the agency also agreed to complete action on project applications within 120 days, or refer the application to the governing board.

“Streamlining means different things to different people,” Angelocci said. “To a builder, it means we are not as concerned with the little stuff. To us, it means our priority is shifting to the Environmental Improvement Program.”

Several counties, including El Dorado and Washoe, have been aggressive in taking over responsibility for residential and other small projects. The city of South Lake Tahoe is currently bringing its building codes into line with the TRPA’s, a first step in taking on some of the agency’s oversight of small commercial projects.

“Our jurisdiction is willing to take on the responsibility, but we also want a say in what the regulations are,” said board member Hal Cole, a South Lake Tahoe councilman.

El Dorado Supervisor Ray Nutting, who represents the county on the agency’s governing board, said local governments should not be expected to spend their own money while performing the TRPA’s duties.

In the coming months, the agency will review amendments to its agreements with local governments, including the Forest Service and California State Parks, and code changes to implement the streamlining.

“We will be discussing how to make this a model of cooperation for the region,” Angelocci said.

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