Businesses interested in TRPA issue |

Businesses interested in TRPA issue

Susan Wood

Old growth and a new fee structure for land coverage will top the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s agenda next Wednesday.

Business interests have been very interested in the latter, which outlines the rate of fees for land around the Lake Tahoe Basin that’s developed in excess of TRPA’s 30 percent standard.

The percentage of open space per parcel varies, depending on the terrain and relation to nearby watersheds. The money collected in the Golden State would be earmarked for California Tahoe Conservancy environmental projects. Across the border, the Silver State’s collections would be handled by Nevada State Lands.

At issue is the intent to create more open space around the basin in the interests of preventing soil erosion and improving water quality without stifling the growth that feeds economic development.

TRPA planner Gabby Barrett posed the question: “How much do we charge these guys without killing projects?” The agency must determine the answer to this question in setting these fees.

The agency’s first fee proposal was met with strong opposition, including two letters from the South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe-Douglas chambers of commerce.

The fees proposed for California land amounts to $6.50 per square foot. The adjusted rates on the table for Nevada amount to an average of $13.70 per square foot. This breaks down to $12.03 for Douglas County and $15.35 for Washoe County. A maximum cap of 5 percent of the project’s worth was set as an overall guideline.

At one point, the fee proposal called for $21 per square foot.

In the last few weeks, TRPA representatives have met with business and civic leaders in an attempt to hash out a compromise.

“I think it does a couple of things. It shows they were willing to negotiate and take public comment,” Tahoe-Douglas Chamber Executive Director Kathleen Farrell said Wednesday.

Farrell feels the business community may be “moderately satisfied” with the outcome if it’s approved by the governing board.

“The good thing is that at least we had some influence,” she said of the public outcry. “There has to be some give and take. Otherwise, no mitigation will ever take place much less restoration projects.”

The chamber’s core membership area lies within two of the key hydrologic zones for further development – Stateline and Kingsbury Grade.

South Lake Tahoe’s chamber urged TRPA to carefully consider “all the potential impacts of any proposed increases.”

“Lake Tahoe has greatly benefited from redevelopment and rehabilitation of the existing development as a result of the options provided. … (We feel) that a large number of such rehabilitation projects may no longer be economically feasible with the dramatic increase in such fees,” South Shore’s chamber President Greta Hambsch wrote.

Barrett mentioned other options beyond the added fees.

He said one may choose to reduce the amount of land covered by a structure or driveway, for example. Or, a land owner may perform what’s called a “retirement of coverage” that essentially allows a nearby property owner with less coverage developed to compensate for an overdeveloped neighbor.

“If (property owners) do a structure modification like an addition, that’s what’s going to trigger this,” Barrett said, referring to the excess fees.

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