Code change to incentive program for development draws suspicion: TRPA moves toward environmental review of ‘Y’ community plan
While suspicions swirl around a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency code change, the agency’s Governing Board addressed concerns about the Tahoe Valley Community Plan during its monthly meeting Wednesday.
At the meeting, TRPA staff presented outlines of four alternatives for the plan to be included in a environmental review process scheduled to begin this winter.
The alternatives encompass a range of development at the “Y” in South Lake Tahoe.
A planning team, convened in March 2003, was responsible for developing the second of the four alternatives, but at least one team member sees significant differences between the plan developed by a selected group of community members and the one presented to the board Wednesday.
The exclusion of “pocket parks” and a greater amount of commercial development are two of the discrepancies between the plans, according Nicole Zaborsky, who spoke to the board Wednesday.
An accurate representation of what the community plan team came up with will be included in the environmental review process, according to John Singlaub, executive director for the TRPA.
“We will make sure that this is the case,” Singlaub said.
A draft environmental review for the Tahoe Valley Community Plan is expected by the end of February.
Before recommending the changes to the Tahoe Valley Community Plan’s environmental review process, the board approved a change in TRPA code that will allow the community plan to be eligible for the TRPA’s Community Enhancement Program.
The program aims to give incentives to developers whose designs combine residential and commercial areas, multiple transportation options and common areas, according to a TRPA news release.
The incentives could include allowing more commercial floor space, taller buildings and less parking.
Before the code change, a project needed to fall under a completed community or master plan process to be eligible for the program.
But with the Community Enhancement Program’s Oct. 31 application deadline looming, changing the code was necessary to make the Tahoe Valley Community Plan, as well as the master plan for Homewood Mountain Resort, eligible for the program, said TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan.
“The code amendment improved the timing of getting good projects on the ground,” Regan said. “The areas of the ‘Y’ and Homewood are definitely in need of infrastructure improvements and redevelopment.”
Representatives from Lake Tahoe Basin environmental groups called the decision unfair and questioned the wisdom of changing an ordinance so close to a deadline.
“The ground rules keep changing. It’s become a chronic problem that we face over and over again,” said Rochelle Nason, executive director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe.
The groups also fear a possible inclusion of the two projects in the TRPA program will allow the projects to benefit from the program without going through the typical environmental review and community planning channels.
Making the projects eligible for the program does not guarantee they’ll be included in the program and does not exempt them from stringent review processes, Regan said.
“They’ll still have to go through a very extensive environmental review and community planning process,” she said.
Still, the groups have their doubts.
“Why are you going out of your way to change the code for two project areas that haven’t gone through the process?” Michael Donahoe, conservation co-chair for the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, asked after Wednesday’s meeting.