No zoning change for Zephyr Heights |

No zoning change for Zephyr Heights

Emily Aughinbaugh

The people spoke and the government listened.

That’s what many Zephyr Heights residents took away from the protest they held Wednesday against affordable housing in their neighborhood.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency advisory commission voted to recommend the Governing Board deny an application to rezone an eight-acre parcel of land in Zephyr Heights to allow for multiple-family housing.

“It was very nice to see TRPA is a real democratic organization,” said Debby Everett, one of the Zephyr Heights homeowners who organized the protest. “I was surprised. Their decision was very positive, but we’ll have to wait and see what the Governing Board decides.”

The Governing Board will discuss the zoning change at its next meeting in August. The lot in question, which has been empty for years and served as a recreation area for the Girl Scouts, sits across U.S. Highway 50 from the Presbyterian Conference Center.

The meeting drew nearly 100 residents, many of whom testified about the problems they felt the project would bring to their neighborhood. Signs that read “No multi-family units” lined the small and stuffy board room of the Tahoe Seasons Resort.

“It was very nice to see all the people who turned out,” Everett said. “We went from going door-to-door with very few people knowing about this to all the people who showed up today. Everybody’s in favor of affordable housing, but in an appropriate place, and this is not an appropriate place.”

Residents complained about potential traffic, noise and scenic impact. Commission members weren’t satisfied the project met TRPA requirements for access to transit and neighborhood services.

“It’s a tremendous stretch of the imagination” that the project meets the transit criteria, said commission member Leo Poppoff.

The land was one of three sites TRPA staff identified as a possible home for an affordable housing project.

“The bottom line is there’s nothing available in the way of cheap, flat property next to services and all the other things we’re looking for (in Douglas County),” said Gabby Barrett, TRPA’s chief of long-range planning.

The shortage of acceptable sites was one reason Falcon Capital, the owner of the Zephyr Heights property, applied to change the land’s zoning.

Falcon Capital purchased the property two years ago. Co-owner Randy Lane said it was a good spot to build about 30 small, single-family houses for first-time home buyers.

The houses would serve as part of the mitigation required by TRPA when Falcon Capital decided to tear down the low-cost Lake Park Apartments on Kahle Drive. Lane said the agency required the company to construct 134 affordable housing units for the people who were displaced by the Lake Park demolition.

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