Beauty or beast? Large boat turns heads
A 4,000-square-foot, three-story luxury boat with its own helicopter landing pad is turning heads up and down Lake Tahoe, with some charging it is an illegal houseboat.
Its owner, meanwhile, refers to it as a yacht and says it’s not intended to be a residence, according to his lawyer.
The largest non-commercial boat on the Lake, the Sierra Rose was brought in three pieces to Tahoe and assembled on a barge last winter at the Tahoe Keys Marina. It launched this spring.
The 92-foot vessel occupies a slip at the marina, where it prompted complaints from condominium owners that the boat blocks their views, according to the Tahoe Keys Homeowners Association. Lakefront owners are also grumbling the large vessel is an eyesore.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has also received complaints and is investigating the boat to see if it complies with regulations prohibiting live-aboard vessels on Lake Tahoe.
Owner Michael Stewart calls the Sierra Rose a yacht and does not believe it’s breaking any rules, according to his lawyer.
“They confirmed through separate counsel that the yacht complied with all TRPA regulations,” said DeArmond Sharp, lawyer for Sierra Rose LLC. “It’s only used for recreational purposes. It’s not intended for anyone to live on it.”
Sierra Rose LLC technically owns the boat, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The company’s sole officer is White Paper LLC, according to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office. Michael B. Stewart is the sole officer of White Paper LLC. Attempts to contact Stewart were unsuccessful.
The Sierra Rose is for sale for $7 million under a residential real estate listing, which opens with an invitation to “Live on the Lake.”
Listing agent Terry Laymance with All About Tahoe Realty could not be reached for comment.
“It’s probably an overstatement and probably will be revised,” Sharp said.
Until last summer, TRPA stuck to a rigid interpretation of its regulations, saying no one could stay on their boat overnight on Lake Tahoe.
But a debate erupted last summer when managers of Emerald Bay State Park said TRPA staff had made an issue of the long-standing practice of overnight camping in the bay. The parks department planned on ramping up enforcement of the rule, but that was met with public outcry.
California Assemblyman Tim Leslie’s office stepped into the fray. Leslie sent a letter to TRPA saying his staff could find no wording in the agency’s code that prohibited overnight camping. TRPA soon loosened its stance, and said staying one or two nights was OK, but actually living on the lake is not permissible.
Tahoma resident and lakefront homeowner Liz Peer said neighbors in the area are incensed because the Sierra Rose anchors overnight in front of their homes.
“I think it’s a visual and aesthetic blight to the integrity of Lake Tahoe,” Peer said. “If this is indeed legal, then the regulations need to be changed. It’s the classic camel’s nose under the tent. Can you imagine having hundreds of those floating on Lake Tahoe, and lighting up like Christmas Trees all night?”
The Tahoe Keys Homeowners Association looked into the legality of the boat earlier this summer after receiving complaints from condominium owners on the edge of the marina.
“We concluded that it’s not breaking any rules,” said HOA manager Ed Morrow. “It’s clear no one lives on it. We had several homeowners that were pretty irate about the thing, mostly because of the size and because it blocked their view.”
Stewart owns Empire Farms on the northeast border of Washoe County. He donated $1,000 to Washoe County Commissioner Jim Galloway for his re-election campaign in 2004. Galloway serves on the 15-member TRPA Governing Board.