Council wants more options for loop road |

Council wants more options for loop road

Adam Jensen

A divided South Lake Tahoe City Council will ask the proponents of a loop road project for additional options following discussion of the controversial proposal Tuesday.

City councilmen Hal Cole, Tom Davis and Bruce Grego voted in favor of sending a letter to the Tahoe Transportation District asking the agency to present additional options for the design of the project.

The existing loop road proposal, formally known as the U.S. Highway 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project, would reroute the highway to where Lake Parkway exists today, using a new alignment between Echo and Fern roads. The highway through the casino corridor would be reduced to two lanes under the proposal.

Cole said the economic impacts of the existing proposal are too great and not well enough understood for him to support the project in its current, preliminary, design.

The council’s letter to the district will also request an independent economic analysis of the loop road’s economic impacts and say that the council will not support the use of eminent domain for the project.

Mayor Claire Fortier and Councilwoman Angela Swanson said they would not sign the letter to the transportation district. Both objected to expressing across-the-board opposition to the use of eminent domain on the project. A loop road proposal could be developed that the council likes, but requires the use of the public power, according to the councilwomen.

Fortier noted the city has a rigorous process in place for the use of eminent domain, calling the out-front opposition to the loop road project “political.”

State law requires four out of five “yes” votes for the City Council to use eminent domain for any project, said City Attorney Patrick Enright.

Carl Hasty, district manager at the Tahoe Transportation District, said the loop road project is still in its early stages and additional alternatives for the project can still be developed prior to the start of the environmental document. He said he expected the analysis to go beyond legal requirements when it comes to looking at the economic impacts of the proposal.

The council unanimously approved a contract with Tahoe Sports and Entertainment for operation the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena for the next 10 years. If the company invests at least $500,000 in the arena during the next decade – up from a proposed $250,000 – it will have the option to extend the contract for an additional 10 years. Expanded seating, a relocated cafe and fitness center, multisport flooring and an outdoor sheet of ice are among the planned improvements to the ice arena by the company.

The council approved the sale of just over $6 million in bonds to fund two projects and improvements to city roads Tuesday. Following costs of issuance, the underwriter’s discount, a debt service reserve and interest, the bond sale will result in about $5 million in funding for the city.

The money is slated for improvements to city roads, the Harrison Avenue project and the Linear Park at Tahoe Meadows.

The term of the bonds is 30 years. The sale is part of a five-year capital improvement strategy at the city. Sale of the bonds in subsequent years will require additional council approvals.

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