GUEST COLUMN: Opportunity for prosperity or creating peril? |

GUEST COLUMN: Opportunity for prosperity or creating peril?

A lot of effort and work is being done by city government, the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, and collaborative government partners in the Tahoe Region to create a prosperous city and region that encourages new private sector investment into the area while maintaining and improving our strong commitment to environmental protection.

Work on the City’s General Plan, Tahoe Valley Community Plan, Redevelop-ment Project Area No. 2, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Regional Plan, and the emerging Regional Prosperity Plan are all important planning efforts to create more sound and stable local economy for all residents and promote economic vitality in the region.

Prosperity does not occur by accident. It does not occur by wishing and hoping alone. It occurs by collaborative and thoughtful efforts based on sound and responsible planning and, most importantly, execution of these plans. Planning without implementation is fantasy, and we have little time for fantasy. We also have too much at stake with our community and Region’s future to waste our time on “pipe dreams.”

Some very disturbing news arose at a recent TRPA Governing Board meeting when a proposal was made by TRPA staff to require new hotel accommodation projects (hotels/condominiums are important because we are a tourist economy) to radically increase the number of Tourist Accommodation Units needed to build a new project.

You may ask why this topic should be of importance to people who live and work in South Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Region. This is a very good question and one that needs an answer.

Tourist Accommodation Units are a limited artificial commodity in the Basin, and they are very important commodities for without them new investment in hotel, motel, and condominium projects cannot take place. The number of TAU’s in the Basin is finite. By definition, a TAU “is one bedroom, or a group of two or more rooms with a bedroom, with or without cooking facilities, primarily designed to be rented by the day or week and occupied on a temporary basis.” When a new hotel or condominium project is built, the project must have an amount of TAU’s equal to the number of new rooms to be built. Normally, these TAU’s are acquired by a developer or landowner wishing to expand his/her hotel, motel or condominium by purchasing older less productive properties and shifting the units acquired to the new project. Since there is a finite number of this artificial TAU commodity in the Basin, we must use them wisely and prudently.

By TRPA staff bringing at the last minute this proposal to require more TAU’s to build a new hotel, motel or condominium project than the current rule, the cost of a new project rises dramatically, the number of new units built decreases and the likelihood of a new project going forward diminishes dramatically. New private-sector investment and reinvestment that is desperately needed in the city and region for economic growth, to create a sustainable local economy, and to ensure that environmental improvements are made in the Region, becomes far less likely to occur if the new TAU rule is approved. With all the talk and more talk about building a prosperous and sustainable city and region that can support and encourage environmental protection, the TAU rule change would be a backward step to a no-growth and no new investment philosophy that makes no sense and is economically and environmentally irresponsible. We can’t talk about prosperity and then see regional government put in place draconian rules that prevent it from happening. People in South Lake Tahoe and the Region need responsible community improvement policies.

To the credit of the TRPA Governing Board, the proposal was not approved. Is it dead? No one knew it was alive until it suddenly surfaced so we must be diligent in watching for its return. Congratulations are due to the Governing Board for not acting on this community improvement-killing proposal. Let’s encourage our elected and appointed leaders on the TRPA Governing Board, our city council, and county representatives to just say no and not bring a bad idea back for reconsideration or further board action.

– David Jinkens is the City Manager for the city of South Lake Tahoe.

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