Clearing large swath of land costs homeowner
Willows as tall as 25-feet were cut from a lush stream area at Glenbrook without a permit or an attempt to get one.
Now Harvey Whittemore, an attorney who lobbies for the casino industry, will pay $75,000 for slashing vegetation on protected land.
As part of a settlement approved Wednesday, Whittemore has also agreed to replant the land and to keep it fenced for three years to allow restoration.
Whittemore told the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency that he removed the trees and vegetation to make a picnic area. That probably wasn’t his intention, said an attorney representing the Glenbrook Homeowners Association.
“I have my own suspicions,” said John “Jack” Diepenbrock, an attorney from Sacramento and a Glenbrook homeowner. “It could have been for a picnic area or a parking area.”
Diepenbrock said his firm has sued Whittemore and his neighbor, Larry Ruvo, for trying to create an entertainment complex on their property. The complex would include a floating pier. The lawsuit, which blocked the installation of the pier, is making its way through federal court in Las Vegas.
Leif Reid, a lawyer and son of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., was at Wednesday’s hearing representing Whittemore. Reid said Diepenbrock’s theory that the cleared area would be used as a road is a “ridiculous insinuation” and completely unsupported by the evidence.
“He was improving the environment there as he saw it,” Reid said. “The vegetation was disturbed so large aspens could be put there as planned. What he did wrong was that he didn’t ask for permission first.”
The Whittemore case was one of three settlement agreements approved Wednesday that involved tree removal without a permit. It was an ideal settlement of a violation, board members said, because it involved restoration of the disturbed land.
The other cases were settled just with a fine, about $5,000 per tree. That prompted board members to ask TRPA staff to work out a different way to resolve similar cases. One that ensures violators who have no problem paying the fine are not able to enjoy the fruit of their violations.
— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at email@example.com
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