Boulder Bay | Huge decision looms for TRPA |

Boulder Bay | Huge decision looms for TRPA

Matthew Renda

CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. – The fate of the high-profile project to renovate the North Shore’s Tahoe Biltmore site could be decided at next week’s Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board meeting.

The board meets at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Chateau in Incline Village.

Boulder Bay is the first of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Community Enhancement Program projects originally approved in 2008 to come before the governing board for a final approval.

Originally unveiled in 2007, the program provides incentives, such as additional commercial floor space and added Tourist Accommodation Units (such as hotel, motel or vacation rental units) to businesses in exchange for redevelopment that focuses on environmental improvement with a focus on installing erosion-control measures that stem the flow of unwanted particles into Lake Tahoe.

However, some groups oppose the project’s scale, including the League to Save Lake Tahoe.

The league argued that the project’s traffic study is flawed as it inflates current traffic numbers in an attempt to show a future reduction.

In a September 2010 interview, Boulder Bay project manager Brian Helm said the major difference between the traffic analysis as it evolved from draft environmental impact study to final EIS is a more sophisticated use of data to arrive at the baseline, from which analysts can assess the projected traffic impact.

Helm said when the initial data collection for the traffic survey was conducted to formulate a baseline in 2008, the local and national economy was in the throes of a devastating recession and traffic was considerably reduced as tourists were not traveling to Tahoe with regular frequency.

This week, Julie Regan, spokeswoman for TRPA, said the developers conducted two separate traffic studies, which is unusual, as the law requires only one.

“The project applicant has conducted diligent work and analysis over a four-year period,” she said. “The project has gone through multiple revisions, extensive analysis and the project applicants have invested multiple resources with the aim of delivering a project that we, as TRPA staff hope, will be beneficial to Lake Tahoe.”

Another point of contention centers on height. Boulder Bay calls for the replacement of one tall building with eight tall buildings, which will ultimately degrade scenic views in the area, said Carl Young, program director for the league.

“The so-called Community Enhancement Program was never meant to be a code-avoidance program,” Young said. “It was meant to bring properties into compliance with long-standing regulations, including those relating to height. Instead, this project proliferates the site’s problems.”

Ann Nichols, a vocal and consistent critic of the project with the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, said the North Shore community “has never been offered an alternative that improves water quality with a scenario that doesn’t require a new code for height.”

“The real question is, are we willing to trade scenic, recreational, air quality (traffic) impacts for (Boulder Bay’s) profit,” she said.

The project, while strongly opposed by groups such as the league and NTPA, has also received praise.

The FEIS states 195 people or organizations have submitted comments in support of the project, while 28 submitted comments in opposition.

Form letter comments – a formal letter regarding the inadequacy of the traffic analysis, assessment of fine sediment loads and provision of adequate Best Management Practices – were signed by 76 individuals.

Amanda Royal, spokeswoman for the league, has said the statistics regarding positive and negative comments are misleading, as the league represents thousands of individuals, but only submitted one comment.

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