City wants time in tree-cut decision | TahoeDailyTribune.com

City wants time in tree-cut decision

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune file / The city of South Lake Tahoe was the subject of criticism when 387 trees were cut down near the airport for safety reasons.
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The city is asking for a continuance from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for a decision on its request to cut down more trees at the Lake Tahoe Airport.

The South Lake Tahoe government applied for the permit July 6 to remove 1,725 trees at the aviation facility but has since found a possible way to decrease the number to 408 if the Federal Aviation Administration approves a grant to pay for lights that would help reduce obstructions.

Still, city Assistant Manager Rick Angelocci, who believes that decision could come as early as November, admitted a sales job may be in order.

The California Department of Aeronautics doesn’t “like obstruction lights because they like a wide-open airport,” he said. The state agency oversees safety operations.

In the meantime, the city has agreed to temporarily classify the airport from an ARC C-III status to B-III, which essentially qualifies smaller and slower planes classified by their necessary approach.

City Manager Dave Jinkens sent TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub a letter Sunday asking for the request be postponed – an action needing to come from the Governing Board, TRPA legal counsel Joanne Marchetta said Monday.

“In most circumstances, the board grants these types of requests,” she said.

Marchetta added the regulatory agency has been working with the city and is ready to rule on the permit application – which may come at the same time the TRPA imposes a fine the city cutting down 387 trees in May over 5.2 acres north of the airport. The TRPA issued a cease-and-desist order to stop further clearance of several hundred trees north of the airport. The agency alleged the city violated the conditions of a permit that limited the trees to 100 per year between 6 and 10 inches in diameter.

The city contends the tree-cutting incident – which sparked a firestorm of criticism and support from the community – was based on a safety clearance measure. The California Department of Transportation declared in a letter it would suspend night operations if the measures weren’t met. Night operations have since returned, and the city has settled with the California Department of Forestry that absolves it of fines and litigation in violation of the Forest Practices Act.

But that leaves the TRPA violation up in the air.

“The city needs a permit to address the concerns,” Marchetta admitted.

The legal counselor for the lakewide, bi-state agency said she expects the violation to cover a “monetary component” and “suggestions” of how to rectify the tree-cutting violation but declined to say how much that penalty would amount to.


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