Incline Village the latest entity to demand changes from TRPA | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Incline Village the latest entity to demand changes from TRPA

Matthew Renda
mrenda@tahoedailytribune.com

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. – IVGID officials recently denounced a new legal clause from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, saying the district will be forced to defend any lawsuit associated with future construction projects even if TRPA’s negligence is responsible.

Scott Brooke, Incline Village General Improvement District legal counsel, said TRPA’s updated “indemnification clause” – which is included on all construction permits issued by the agency – is a more specific version of the previous one, but the difference is additional language that exempts TRPA from legal repercussions even if the agency is the cause for the suit.

“Basically, (TRPA) is making (IVGID) liable for their mistakes,” Brooke said during the May 20 special meeting of the board of trustees.

The previous clause, Brooke said, also contained language that requires the entity taking out the permit to defend potential lawsuits.

The sentence sparking the ire in the new clause reads: “… regardless of whether the actions or omissions are alleged to be caused by TRPA or Permittees.”

The issue angered the five IVGID trustees, who were mulling whether to approve a capital project relating to upgrades at Preston Field, which requires a TRPA permit.

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“These types of actions are the reasons something needs to be done (with the TRPA),” said Bill Horn, IVGID general manager.

The statement demonstrates the degree of outrage directed at the clause, as Horn was one of the more prominent supporters of TRPA after news broke that the Nevada Legislature was considering withdrawing the Silver State from the agency by crafting Senate Bill 271.

Permit carriers around the lake will have legal recourse if they believe TRPA’s negligence is the cause for a lawsuit related to a permitted project, said Jeff Cowen, agency spokesman, in an interview this week.

Cowen said the purpose of the clause was not to brush off legal responsibilities onto other governing bodies, but came about as a result of direction from TRPA’s governing board.

TRPA is currently mired in a lawsuit with Sierra Colina LLC – developers of the Sierra Colina Village Project in Stateline, Nev., which was approved by the governing board on June 24, 2009.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Sierra Club brought a lawsuit against Sierra Colina, challenging the exemption of the new subdividsion’s road from coverage limitations.

Sierra Colina then sued TRPA, claiming the agency has the legal obligation to defend the suit from the League and Sierra Club, Cowen said; thus, the newly fashioned clause is an attempt to prevent a similar lawsuit from occurring again.

“We don’t want to be put in a position where we’re forced to use taxpayer money to defend developer’s projects,” he said.

IVGID Director of Public Works Joe Pomroy sent a letter to TRPA, requesting the clause grant an exception to the permitee’s liability if TRPA is the cause of negligence.

In an interview this week, Tahoe City Public Utility District General Manager Cindy Gustafson said she supports Pomroy’s letter.

Pomroy said he did not have a timeline for when he would receive an answer from TRPA but said he would routinely follow up with the agency.