Burke project denied by TRPA | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Burke project denied by TRPA

The Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Wednesday denied a controversial Douglas County project that the potential developer and its own staff maintained complied with all of the agency’s regulations.

A group of concerned residents, the League to Save Lake Tahoe and the California Attorney General’s Office argued the contrary, saying approving the proposed 26-unit, multi-family condominium development actually went against TRPA’s code and water quality plan.

Either way the board decided, a potential lawsuit was likely.

“This is going to litigation one way or another, or I anticipate it to,” said Kay Bennett, the Carson City representative on TRPA’s board.

“There are issues we can’t be sure of,” she added. “There’s that level of doubt in my mind.”

The developer first proposed the project in 1997 as a 44-unit development, but he had since change the plans to 26. The condominium project would have gone near Kahle Park, Lake Village and the Old Nugget Building that houses Stateline’s Burger King.

TRPA’s board has 14 voting members, and, because the project is in Nevada, approval required five affirmative votes from the Nevada members and nine total affirmative votes. Of the 11 members present, five votes were for the project, three of those from Nevada representatives.

The issue was debated for more than six hours at TRPA’s regular September meeting.

Larry Hoffman, attorney for the developer, said to the board that the project followed all of TRPA’s rules. It was an allowable use for the area, and the impact to the environment was adequately addressed with more than $1 million worth of mitigation the developer planned.

“When it’s all said and done, this is a very good project you shouldn’t be embarrassed about,” he said. “This project does what you want.”

However, representatives from the League and the California Attorney General’s Office maintained that projects like this – “lot and block subdivisions” – are forbidden in TRPA’s Code of Ordinances and Water Quality Plan.

“We believe there’s no discretion to approve a project like this without amending the 208 (water quality) plan,” said Dan Siegel, deputy attorney general.

“Erosion control and control of new development is an absolute essential component of saving this lake for future generations,” said Charles Goldman, director of the University of California, Davis Tahoe Research Group, who spoke of behalf of the Attorney General’s Office.

Hoffman, however, argued that projects comparable to South Shore Estates have been approved in other places in the basin. While the board may have concerns now about violating its code and water quality plan, Hoffman said it would be unfair to not approve the project, describing it as punishing “the last guy coming down the plank.'”

“If that happens, it’s just going to pull the rug out from under this agency’s credibility,” he said.

TRPA staff in July required the developer to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, a decision the developer tried to appeal last month. TRPA staff this month indicated its concerns had been worked out and Wednesday recommended approval.

Drake DeLanoy, the Nevada governor’s appointee to TRPA’s board, said he was disappointed with TRPA staff for not better addressing the potential water quality impacts and possibly misleading the developer during the application process.

“I feel somewhat put upon by staff,” he said. “I sympathize with Jim (Borelli, the developer) and Larry (Hoffman) that these issues should have been raised a long time ago.”

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