Council denies cannabis permit appeal; hears SLTPD annual update

Laney Griffo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — City Council covered an array of issues during its lengthy meeting on Tuesday.

Council received an updated presentation on the recreation and aquatics center. While much of the conversation was a repeat of past presentations such as features of the center, this presentation went more in depth into financing and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications, per request of council.

The project is currently in the schematic design process which is expected to be completed by end of April or beginning of May. The project budget is $48 million and is expected to come in under budget by about $67,000.

However, the council has expressed interest in being the most energy efficient as possible with the building so some design elements and budgeting could change. The project as it is designed is aiming to be LEED Gold certified. The step up from that would be LEED Platinum, which would delay schematic design by about a month and cost an additional $4-5 million.

The next step up would be LEED Zero, which would delay design by about two months and cost an additional $6-7.5 million.

Staff said they could continue to shoot for LEED Gold and design the building so that it could be updated in the future to allow for energy efficiency expansions, such as building roofs so they can hold solar panels down the line.

Council asked staff to come back with some decision points on sustainability it could approve or deny.

The recreation center is being designed as an evacuation site so it will have back-up power in case of emergency.

Council holds off on electric vehicle purchase

Council pulled two items from the consent agenda which sparked a lengthy discussion. The first was the purchase of two Jacobsen Truckster XD 4WD vehicles for the parks division and one Tesla Model 3 AWD Electric Vehicle to replace a Ford Taurus from the motor pool fleet.

The Trucksters were approved with no discussion but the hold up on the item was over the purchase of the Tesla. Staff said that they were leaning towards the Tesla because it is all-wheel drive and because its battery range would also allow the city to take if off the hill if necessary.

However, Mayor Pro Tem Devin Middlebrook pulled the item from the consent agenda because he was concerned with the perception of the city buying a Tesla in the middle of a pandemic. While the city has a goal of going 100% electric with their vehicles, there is no plan in place on how and when that will happen. So council directed staff to hold off on the purchase until the plan can be brought back to council.

Councilmember John Friedrich recused himself from the discussion.

City purchases new road striping truck

Another lengthy discussion centered on the purchase of a new road striping truck, which was pulled from the consent agenda by Councilmember Cody Bass. He was concerned about the nearly $500,000 purchase and wanted staff to bring back an analysis on outsourcing striping work.

The truck is nearly 20 years old and staff does not believe it will last through the summer. Even if the purchase was approved, the city likely wouldn’t receive it until September. Since the summer would be impacted no matter what, Bass wanted to take the time to review other options which Friedrich agreed with.

Despite their concerns, council voted 3-2 to move forward with the purchase. Bass and Friedrich provided the “no” votes.

Cannabis permit extension denied

During a public hearing, council denied an appeal that would’ve extended the required opening date for one of the cannabis permit holders.

James Tahoe LLC, formerly known as Perfect Union SLT, LLC ran into construction delays because of COVID-19 and a busier than usual construction season, which prevented them from opening within the required one year time frame set by the city.

They applied for a six month extension but the planning commission denied the request so they appealed to city council. Part of the reason for the denial was that internal disputes caused two of the six original applicants for Perfect Union to pull out of the agreement.

Council felt that because of the break-up, the project had changed enough to not warrant the extension. Council voted 3-1 to deny the appeal with Mayor Tamara Wallace providing the only dissenting vote. Bass did not take part in the discussion.

City raises fees for events

A new Master Fee schedule and pricing structure was approved. Fees for facility day use, swimming programs, youth and teen programs, and golf course and campground use stayed the same.

The majority of the increases were minor, although rental of Lakeview Commons for events did see a bigger increase including an additional $19 for events with up to 500 attendees and an increase of $23 for events of more than 500 attendees.

SLTPD chief gives annual report

Fire Department services did see an increase but some police department services such as towed vehicle release and fingerprinting decreased.

South Lake Tahoe Police Chief Dave Stevenson presented the 2020 annual report for the department. Some of the goals achieved by SLTPD this year include installation of a body worn camera system, purchase of a new public safety radio communication system, and a significant police station remodel.

According to the report, “although the caseload increased in 2020, overall arrests decreased from 1049 (2019) to 928 (2020).”

The city saw an increase in assaults, bike thefts, arson, domestic violence, hate crimes and DUIs. There was a significant drop in vehicular burglary and rape cases and there were no homicides compared to two in 2019. The most arrests happened in February.

In 2020, South Tahoe Alternative Collaborative Services was launched and since, Lake Tahoe Unified School District, Live Violence Free and the Tahoe Transportation District have also joined the collaboration.

An update on citations was also included in the report. Citations in all three categories; parking, code enforcement, and VHRs were down from 2019 by 1,119 calls. In 2020, the city collected nearly $100,000 in fines compared to $237,000 in 2019.

The detailed report also gives updates on each unit, including Homeless Outreach, K-9 and Gang Unit. The full report will be housed on the city’s website and will be updated each year.

Boat launch code changed, communications director leaving

Finally, the council approved the first reading of a code change regarding boat launch facility use. The change to the code will now prohibit commercial use from the public dock. Several small businesses owners called in to talk about the devastating impacts this will have on their businesses. However, the city saw safety concerns and scheduling issues, with the public not being able to use the dock because of the businesses.

The council approved the ordinance change unanimously but Bass said he’d like to find a way for the city to work with the small businesses that previously used the dock in some way.

At the end of the meeting, the city manager announced the Communications Director Chris Fiore will be leaving for a new job at the end of the month.

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