Land may open up to building: Development standard may be reduced |

Land may open up to building: Development standard may be reduced

Greg Crofton and Christina Nelson

With all the most environmentally sensitive land in El Dorado County now protected as open space, county land once deemed too fragile to build on is now on track to be developed.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board is expected to decide today when it meets at Kings Beach whether to loosen restrictions enough to allow 115 vacant parcels in El Dorado County to become eligible for development.

Staff at the TRPA – established in 1969 by California and Nevada to manage development in the Lake Tahoe Basin – has recommended that the board vote to approve the loosening of those restrictions by dropping the IPES line from 581 to 61.

The Individual Parcel Evaluation System has assigned a score to vacant parcels in the basin. If that score is higher than the IPES line, a lot is OK to build on. The most sensitive lots, located near streams or on steep slopes, get a score of zero so they can never be developed.

“The (lots) may be legally deemed buildable, but practically speaking you may not be able to get coverage for them,” said Cheryl Murakami, director of communications for South Tahoe Association of Realtors. “It will probably make the Realtor’s job difficult as far as educating clients about that.”

Conflicts of interest

Also at the meeting today, the Governing Board is expected to discuss a policy that deals with conflict of interest and how the board communicates with the public.

The discussion about ex-parte communications was recommended when the agency underwent a management audit last year.

“It gives the governing board a policy about how to have conversations with the public,” said TRPA Communications Director Julie Regan.

Regan said the policy may be different for different board members because some are elected officials and others are appointed.

“In order to keep the process fair and not have undue influence on how decisions are made … that’s really what ex-parte communications is about,” Regan said.

The discussions could also address how the board deals with conflicts of interest.

Conflict of interest issues came up at February’s Governing Board meeting when the agency was considering approval of the Tahoe City Marina master plan, which called for 84 new boat slips at the marina. Board member Steve Merrill, who has interest in two slips at the marina, went against the advice of a TRPA attorney to recuse himself from the vote. Merrill said voting on the master plan wasn’t a conflict of interest because the decision would not benefit him.

A policy on conflict of interest could clarify what constitutes a conflict and how board members should act.

Shorezone plan

The board will also consider releasing $140,000 to analyze an additional alternative in the agency’s shorezone plan and to recirculate the alternative for public comment.

The new alternative to the shorezone environmental impact report would allow 220 new piers to be built – 10 per year through 2027. The policy would also limit the number of new piers to one every 200 feet of sandy shoreline, and one every 100 feet of rocky shoreline. TRPA also hopes to encourage construction of jointly owned piers.

Regan said the shorezone plan will also address whether Emerald Bay should be closed to private motorized watercraft on Saturdays during July and August.

“What we’re finding is there are water quality issues relating to gasoline in Emerald Bay,” Regan said.

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