City recommends ‘no’ vote on recovery center zoning change
A modest motel on Emerald Bay Road may become the cornerstone of debate today when the South Lake Tahoe Planning Commission considers changing the zoned use from commercial to residential housing at the “Y.”
Sierra Recovery Center, a nonprofit organization that serves recovering substance abusers, has applied for the planning change so it may convert the former Sandor’s Chateau Motel to accommodate 20 to 30 residents of two transitional houses and its outpatient services.
Rising property values have reduced the organization’s choices of where to buy property, according to center Executive Director Betsy Fedor. She wants to consolidate units to save about $3,000 a month in rent. The organization has seen rent increase at least 2 percent a year.
That’s the estimated mortgage payment Fedor said the organization would pay if it buys the motel as originally planned for $658,000. It’s now listed through Deb Howard & Co. for $750,000, and Fedor has secured a loan. The deal fell out of escrow over a year ago during wrangling with the city over the zoning quandary.
“Unless we buy something to keep our costs down, we’ll eventually be priced out of town. I hope the community wants this for us,” Fedor said, holding up a 3-inch-thick binder of related correspondence on the matter.
City staff recommends the commission deny the request because it contends that problems exist in allowing the special use at that section of town.
The city figured eight other areas exist where residential type of use is allowed, including 67 acres in the Sierra Tract and 279 acres in the Bijou/Al Tahoe Community Plan area.
The staff report reads: “As South Lake Tahoe moves toward build out, the city leaders must balance community needs with wise use of the remaining land base. Consideration of the impacts of the requested land use changes must be given not only to the applicants interests, those of the neighbors, and also upon a broader spectrum of community interests, including the local economy.”
The planning commission is expected to weigh issues ranging from compatibility and safety to choices at other locations and timing.
According to the report: “Residential care is not a compatible use within the gateway commercial area.”
The area at the “Y” has been under a civic microscope lately, as the Tahoe Valley Community Plan team has been working on defining future development in that area. Open lots have presented a slew of opportunities for change.
“What we’re asking is whether that’s a use appropriate for commercial land,” city Associate Planner Lisa O’Daly said Wednesday, while adding she understands the goal and work of Sierra Recovery.
From a safety standpoint, the city has pointed out “concern for safety of children if substance abusers are housed in the area,” the staff report states, pointing out the proximity of Montessori School. It deemed sites near the hospital corridor as more appropriate.
But Fedor said the organization has sought many alternative locations to no avail.
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 541-3800 or via e-mail at email@example.com