Lawsuit over scenic rules still breathing |

Lawsuit over scenic rules still breathing

Gregory Crofton

A lawsuit that attacks rules established for homes along the shore of Lake Tahoe as onerous and amounting to a taking of property rights is moving forward.

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Reed Jr. dismissed the majority of the lawsuit filed against the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in March. But he left the door open for the plaintiff – an Incline Village-based group called the Committee for the Reasonable Regulation of Lake Tahoe – to refile the complaint.

The committee’s revamped lawsuit claims the TRPA did not do enough environmental analysis before it adopted rules to regulate the scenic impact of homes on the shore of Lake Tahoe. It also claims those rules are a “taking” of property rights of people who own land along the shore.

“(The committee) is reformulating claims that were already dismissed,” said John Marshall, lead attorney at the TRPA.

The TRPA completed an environmental “checklist” before adopting its scenic rules, but it did not make an in-depth environmental report, which the committee argues is required by the bistate compact that established the regulatory agency in 1969.

Marshall said scenic rules did not require anything more than a checklist because the adoption of the rules did not have a negative impact on the environment.

“I don’t think that claim, hopefully, has much chance to succeed. But if it did, it would cause a significant change in the operation of the TRPA, Marshall said at a recent TRPA Governing Board meeting. “Ninety percent of our projects are supported by checklists.”

Ronald Zumbrun, an attorney from Sacramento who specializes in land-use issues and represents the committee, said Judge Reed’s decision in March made clear which direction the lawsuit could go if it were to be pursued.

“The judge raised the issues himself,” Zumbrun said. “So we’re being more explicit.”

The rules adopted by the TRPA include the use of a point system to determine the scenic impact a home has on the landscape of the shorezone. The rules require new homes built within 300 feet of the lakeshore to use earth tone paint, limit the amount of window glass facing the lake, and screen their edges with trees or shrubs. Homeowners who want to remodel their house also must comply with the scenic standards.

The TRPA has filed a motion to dismiss the committee’s complaint. The judge will either conduct another hearing on the matter or just issue a ruling. The deadline to file legal briefs regarding TRPA’s motion to dismiss is Nov. 19.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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