More debate to come as Ridge Point heads to Douglas board
Controversy surrounding the Ridge Pointe project will resurface next week when the issue goes before the Douglas County Board of Commissioners for a final decision.
Planning Commissioners on Thursday denied a special-use permit that would have allowed development of a 26-unit time-share resort at 455 Tramway Drive. The 3-3 vote followed hours of contentious debate between neighboring residents, commissioners and project proponents.
Developer Jack Sievers filed the appeal application on Monday, and the matter is being placed on the June 12 commission agenda, said John Doughty, planning and economic development manager.
Don Miner, the county commissioner representing Tahoe, on Friday expressed his dissatisfaction with the Planning Commission’s action.
He said he would like to appeal the decision himself, to save the applicant the trouble of filing an application and paying the $475 appeal fee.
“I do not appreciate those entrusted with land-use decisions inviting losable lawsuits,” Miner said. “Delaying the decision is a major impact to the developer, impacts financing and causes delays in starting the project.”
According to county code, the Board of Commissioners as a group may appeal an advisory board’s decision, but an individual commissioner cannot.
Doughty said the board is scheduled to discuss the issue this Thursday, at which time it could decide to become a co-appellant. When the appeal is heard on June 12, the board may take action to refund the fee, he said.
Sievers and co-owners in the Ridge Pointe Limited Partnership could build a vacation rental complex without the Planning Commission’s OK, because they own the development rights to the land and because the design review was approved at the staff level.
Miner said this fact is what makes the commission’s decision on the use permit inappropriate – if commissioners are opposed to a structure being built in that location, denying the use permit does not prevent that.
“There is no difference in a vacation club and a time share except the developer would pay mitigation fees in lieu of room tax and the deeds are different,” he said. “I’m concerned that the lack of knowledge on the part of the commissioners shows the need for more education by staff.”
But Planning Commissioner Peter Bandurraga said he believes the board made the correct decision.
He said his “no” vote was more a vote of his conscience – he did not disagree with the time-share concept, but did not believe in the project as a whole for the Tahoe Village area. And even if the Ridge Pointe is eventually built, he said he will be content with the knowledge that he did not support it.
“I could not cast a vote in favor of the project, and the only chance I got to vote on it as an issue was the time-share use permit,” Bandurraga said. “My job is to give advice to the county commissioners and make my best opinion known, based on what I’ve heard and my own conscience.”
Commissioner Brian Krolicki, who also voted against issuing the permit, said he, too, believes he made the right decision based on the information he had at the time.
The hearing on the use permit for Ridge Pointe was the first real controversial decision planning commissioners have had to make since county code changes gave them that authority.
Doughty said what resulted – a lengthy debate where in the end it was appealed to the Board of Commissioners – is no indication that system doesn’t work.
“I think it’s actually good, because the same decision could have been made by the Board of Commissioners, and the only avenue for the applicant to appeal would have been in district court,” Doughty said. “It allows the process to work a lot better. Maybe we could do some additional training, but these are not easy decisions to make.”
Doughty said he believes this case also warrants examination of the county ordinance that requires special-use permits for time-share projects.
“That’s a very valid issue we’re going to take a look at … to see whether it makes sense at all these days to do that.”
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