Crucial Boulder Bay vote scheduled for Wednesday TRPA meeting |

Crucial Boulder Bay vote scheduled for Wednesday TRPA meeting

Matthew Renda and Kevin MacMillan
North Lake Tahoe Bonanza

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – In what may figure as a crucial turning point in the story of evolving development in the Lake Tahoe Basin, the fate of the high-profile project to renovate the Tahoe Biltmore site will be decided at this week’s Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board meeting.

That is, assuming there are no more delays.

The oft-debated redevelopment project put forth by Boulder Bay was scheduled to be voted on by the TRPA on March 23 in Incline Village, but the meeting was canceled less than 24 hours prior, due to a death in the family of Norma Santiago and an impending winter storm, and partly because California Gov. Jerry Brown had recently removed the California Governor Appointee to the governing board, Ron Slaven.

It was the most recent in a series of delays over the past 8 months, reportedly made to allow more time for public comment and for the developers to fine-tune a final proposal.

Brown eventually appointed environmental lawyer E. Clement “Clem” Shute Jr. to the board in early April, a move criticized by some as one that seemed like a chess move to influence the board’s makeup at a critical time in the TRPA’s history. Shute has previously represented both the TRPA and the League to Save Lake Tahoe in separate litigation proceedings.

Boulder Bay’s preferred option to construct a 275-room hotel with a 10,000 square-foot casino, 59 whole-ownership units, 14 on-site affordable housing units, 10 off-site affordable housing units, a spa and other amenities, while also addressing outdated environmental concerns at the Tahoe Biltmore site.

The project – first introduced in 2007 – arrived at the current configuration after sweeping changes were made in the form of concessions to interested public parties that repeatedly expressed concerns about the size and scale of the project.

In May 2009, wholesale reductions included the elimination of 42 hotel units, the reduction of total retail square footage by 25 percent, reduction of the total floor area by 20 percent and the removal of an entire floor from seven of the eight buildings.

The original Boulder Bay plan called for 381 total units and 27,620 sq. ft. of retail and dining space.

Then again in early February 2011, Brian Helm, project manager for Boulder Bay, announced the total number of hotel rooms for the final preferred project will reduce from 300 to 275. Furthermore, the project’s overall scale for dining and retail space will reduce 10 percent, to 18,715 square feet (down from 20,715).

It is the first of TRPA’s Community Enhancement Program projects to come before the governing board in quest of final approval, making the impending decision a precedent-setting event.

Originally unveiled in 2007, the program provides incentives, such as additional commercial floor space and added Tourist Accommodation Units (such as hotel, motel or vacation rental units) to businesses in exchange for redevelopment that focuses on environmental improvement with a focus on installing erosion control measures that stem the flow of unwanted particles to Lake Tahoe.

Presently, TRPA, under the leadership of Executive Director Joanne Marchetta, has forged a new direction that provides incentive to the private sector to refurbish developed areas that are responsible for compromising the environment by contributing sediment to the lake during run-off events – essentially marrying the interests of two sectors previously thought to be at loggerheads.

Many in favor, against and interested in the project have viewed it as one that could signify a revolutionary change in planning and development for the Lake Tahoe Basin, a concept perhaps best said by the late Dennis Oliver, former TRPA spokesperson.

“It’s a bellwether project,” Oliver told the Bonanza in November 2009, after the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement was released. “It’s a test for Tahoe. A test of can we do this? What will this lake look like in 20 years?”

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