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More building by landowners may be allowed

The average Lake Tahoe resident probably doesn’t know what the Individual Parcel Evaluation System – commonly referred to as the IPES line – is or what it means to lower it.

However, for someone who – let’s say – lives in Douglas County, owns a vacant residential lot and wants to build there, IPES is probably no secret. And if the IPES score for that parcel is 650, the individual can’t build on that lot – at least not without paying mitigation fees. Also, for that person, learning that the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency likely will lower the IPES line for Douglas and Washoe counties this week, might be important news. It also may be important, though not unexpected, news that the IPES line is not being lowered in Placer and El Dorado counties – at least not just yet.

“In Washoe and Douglas counties, if the board adopts the staff recommendation, there will be more properties above the IPES line in (those) counties. And there will be more property owners eligible to receive residential building allocations,” said Pam Drum, public affairs coordinator for TRPA. “We’re also going to look at making some adjustments in our calculations for El Dorado and Placer counties, and we’ll have to see what happens when we make those adjustments.”



For those intrepid readers currently saying, “Huh? I don’t get it,” let’s start from the beginning.

Implemented in the 1980s, the IPES line is a way for TRPA to limit the amount of development on vacant residential lots in the Tahoe Basin. TRPA allows 300 residential building permits a year, and the IPES line identifies which parcels are too sensitive to be built upon.




The line, however, was created to be flexible. As water quality improvements are completed in various parts of the basin, the IPES line can be lowered on a county-by-county basis.

Each vacant residential parcel in the basin has an IPES score ranging from 0 to 1,140, and the original “line” was set at 726. Residential parcels with a score of 726 or above could be built upon; those with scores below were considered too sensitive.

Since then, because of improvements made on the Nevada side of the lake, Douglas County’s line has dropped to 672 and Washoe County’s line has gone to 639. At this week’s regular TRPA governing board meeting, the agency’s staff is recommending lowering the Douglas line to 639 and Washoe County to 325. The changes would go into effect in April.

The Carson City portion of Lake Tahoe contains no vacant residential parcels.

In the past, TRPA governors representing Placer and El Dorado counties have expressed frustration that the line on the California side hasn’t dropped, and the agency is looking into whether that should be adjusted. However, Drum said that work is not completed, and TRPA did not want to hinder Washoe and Douglas counties’ development while the work was finished.

While the changes in the IPES line will allow development on more sensitive parcels, it does not mean more development will occur.

“We still only issue 300 residential allocations each year,” Drum said. “This won’t mean more people building in Tahoe; it just means more property owners will be eligible to build.”

What: Regular meeting of the Governing Board of Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

When: Jan. 27, 9:30 a.m.

Where: North Tahoe Conference Center, 8318 North Lake Tahoe Blvd., Kings Beach

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