Lease nearly up for Zephyr Cove cabins |

Lease nearly up for Zephyr Cove cabins

Rick Chandler

The Presbyterian Conference Grounds at Zephyr Point, Nevada, is one of the most beautiful places on earth – a tranquil retreat nestled on the western shore of Lake Tahoe.

But could there be trouble in paradise?

As many as 55 leaseholders – some representing families who have vacationed on the property since the 1920s – may be forced to leave when their current leases run out in 2001. The Sierra Mission Partnership, a Sacramento-based Presbyterian Church alliance which oversees operations at the Conference Grounds, is planning a major renovation there – those plans calling for many of the vacation cabins to be torn down.

“They want all of the leaseholders out of there, and we don’t think that’s exactly fair,” said John Packer, who is one of the leaseholders on the property. “Many of the families have been here since 1926, when the Conference Grounds were founded. It’s an emotional issue.”

The Conference Grounds have been a popular retreat for Presbyterian Church groups and other organizations for several decades. The property – which includes a half-mile stretch of beach – includes 75 cabins, of which 55 are occupied by leaseholders.

“We’ve been up front with everyone concerning the lease situation,” said Dorman Leader, the Conference Grounds Activities Director. “We have operated on a series of 10-year leases since the 1920s, and we made it quite clear that the current leases would not be renewed. People have always known about that there would be an end to the leases some day. But there’s been no real controversy over it.”

But there seems to be plenty of controversy. In fact, 52 of the 55 leaseholders have signed on to a plan by the Zephyr Point Leaseholders Association to explore their legal options.

“If Mr. Leader says there is no controversy, then he is wrong,” Packer said. “People are upset, and some have told him so. The Leaseholders Association has retained a law firm out of Reno to look into our legal options.”

The Presbyterian Church uses the Conference Grounds for a variety of activities, including retreats, workshops, conferences and camping. But the grounds aren’t limited to church members.

“It has always been our policy for everyone to enjoy this place,” Leader said. “We feel the public should share in it.”

Current plans call for the elimination of many of the vacation cabins, and construction of a 500-seat auditorium, a parking garage and a senior facility.

The grounds were purchased by the church in the mid-1920s, the first vacationers renting tents there at a cost of $10 per site. Cabins started to go up in the 1930s, and some of those original families have spent their summers at the Conference Grounds for six or seven decades.

“I grew up there,” said Packer, an executive at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe who is now a full-time resident at the Zephyr Point site. “There is a strong attraction to the place for my family, and many of the families feel the same way.

“We would just like to know what our legal options are, and we’re currently seeking that information.”

As to which cabins will be removed, the final decision has not yet been made, according to leader. But all the leaseholders will have to leave, making next summer, apparently, their last at the historic property.

“We’ve gone to (church officials) over and over again to try and settle this thing in an amicable fashion,” Packer said. “But they’ve turned down our overtures every time. Residents are very upset, and we’ll see what happens next.”

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