Local issues dominate assemblyman’s public forum
There were no resolutions during the 90-minute discussion Tuesday night that focused on vacation rentals. But plenty of opinions echoed through the packed hall.
After passing references to the state recall and workers’ compensation costs, Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, opened the forum to public discussion. It soon became apparent why people packed the conference center room at the Inn by the Lake.
Many gave the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency an earful about its recent interest in enforcing zoning laws that restrict vacation home rentals through codes that once tied them to building permit approvals.
The real estate market accounts for millions in tax collections for local governments around Lake Tahoe.
Some received rousing applause for their comments when they voiced their dissent.
Others said they applaud TRPA, citing the earful they get from the homes that plague quiet neighborhoods with nuisance problems.
Agreeing to disagree became the order of the day.
The open forum brought out panelists Nevada Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, R-Incline Village, and representatives Brian Jenson and Nancy Lungren from the offices of Rep. John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, and state Sen. Rico Oller, R-San Andreas, respectively.
“Sen. Oller is raging mad. Is Lake Tahoe going to be another Yosemite where people just drive through. Are we going to charge them high gas prices? Is that where we’re going?” Lungren said, speaking for Oller, calling the TRPA’s latest policy direction “hideous.”
It came to light when the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce sent out a bulletin, alerting members as to the change in plans.
Executive Director Duane Wallace and TRPA Deputy Director Carl Hasty — who have known each other for years — entertained the audience when they passed each other to take their respective ends of the panelist table.
Recognizing they would speak to one of the most controversial issues to hit the South Shore — Wallace sneered at his counterpart in a joking manner, and the audience laughed.
“It’s good to see some humor,” Leslie said.
The humor was short-lived, but the spirit of negotiation remained.
“There’s nothing here that can’t be worked out. We’ve learned this topic is not uncommon. There’s something here that’s important to everybody and it needs to be addressed,” Hasty said.
Much of the dissent surrounds the TRPA’s perceived lack of public comment in the process of reinterpreting its codes.
But Hasty — the agency’s No. 2 man — stayed calm while clearly outnumbered in the crowd. He stood firm in the regulatory agency’s stance to follow the spirit of its 1987 regional plan that dictates zoning guidelines.
“TRPA has to be involved with this because we’re the one charged with developing the community plan,” he said, adding that’s why TRPA doles out a certain number of building allocations.
But while one contractor said he’s seen a change in neighborhoods by menacing transients, he believes TRPA has stomped on his industry with exorbitant fees and restrictions.
South Shore resident Stephen Reinhard took issue with an industry based on the rentals.
“My problem with it is when it becomes a business and that changes the nature of our neighborhoods. It accelerates home prices so no one locally can buy,” he said. “I think a total ban would be good for Tahoe.”
Century 21 agent Doug Rosner dispelled that notion, calling real estate in Tahoe “an investment driven market” based on supply and demand.
One could say property rights turned out to be a common theme — those trying to dictate what owners do with their homes, others wanting to preserve the integrity of neighborhoods.
Either way, Tahoe architect Keith Klein objected to TRPA’s alleged failure to be consistent with its code interpretation. He turned to Hasty to ask how the TRPA plans to enforce such an action when it has a supposed short supply of resources.
“I’ve said it before – thank God we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for,” he said.
— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at email@example.com