Economics the hot issue at the Pathway forum |

Economics the hot issue at the Pathway forum

Amanda Fehd
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Consultant Chuck Nozicka addresses the audience at the Pathway 2007 meeting on Friday.

Sometimes it’s what is left out that really gets to people.

While for many people Lake Tahoe’s economy is almost synonymous with “tourism” and “recreation,” those two words were deleted from a set of goals a consultant proposed Friday for Tahoe’s social and economic health.

The move brought a deluge of criticism from businessmen and conservationists at the Pathway 2007 planning meeting at Embassy Suites in South Shore.

“I’m disturbed by the effort to de-emphasize tourism and recreation,” said Steve Teshara, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. “You talk about economic diversity; well if there weren’t so many people having fun on the ski hill, our hospitals wouldn’t be so busy.”

Consultant Chuck Nozicka said the words were taken out in response to feedback at last November’s meeting on socioeconomics.

Heated debate is not rare at the Pathway forum, which will likely decide the fate of Tahoe for the next 20 years.

Pathway includes 43 community stakeholders who are refining standards that will likely shape policy for four of Tahoe’s most influential agencies: the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the Lahontan Water Board and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

The forum hashed out the details of several other standards Friday, including air and water quality, and vegetation. TRPA staff plans to present the forum’s proposals to the agency’s Governing Board in April.

All meetings are open to the public and public comment is welcome.

Mike Bradford with Lakeside Inn and Casino said removing the words “tourism” and “recreation” from the economic goal was a serious error.

“We are de-emphasizing our strengths and emphasizing our weaknesses,” Bradford said.

Rochelle Nason with the League to Save Lake Tahoe chimed in to agree.

“It is lake-based tourism values that have brought the business community and the environmental community together here,” she said.

Discussion broadened Friday to what role a socioeconomic goal should play in policy and regulations.

“We want to stay away from social engineering,” said Blaise Carrig, Heavenly Mountain Resort’s chief operations officer.

Many believe economic analysis should play a stronger role in Tahoe’s planning.

When the TRPA released its Alternative 6 last summer, it included a proposal to partially ban motorboats in Emerald Bay. One sentence in the 90-page document recognized the existence of an economy and said the plan would not have any significant economic impact. There was no further documentation or analysis given to support the assertion.

TRPA Executive Director John Singlaub has proposed a “triple-bottom line” in which economics, quality of life and environment are all given equal weight in the planning process.

“It’s a departure from how we’ve approached planning at Lake Tahoe,” said Julie Regan, spokeswoman for the TRPA.

Socioeconomics is two-thirds of the triple-bottom line, said John Falk, who represents real estate interests on the forum.

“I’d argue against establishing a (standard) but we need to recognize its importance,” he said.

South Shore emergency room doctor Steve Leman told the group he sensed consensus that no one wants to create more bureaucracy by setting up and regulating economic standards.

“We need to recognize it, but not make it our mission to find everyone a house,” Leman said.

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