Editorial: Public review is central to TRPA plan
March 23, 2006
While we praise the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for its decision to allow at least 60 days for public review of proposed changes to shorezone rules, the tone of Wednesday’s meeting suggests that some board members were brought to the decision grudgingly. (One board member was quoted as saying, “No amount of public hearings in no amount of time is going to change how people feel.”)
The shorezone decision, like any master planning effort, is one of the most important steps in developing policy for the lake. In this case, the board has the power to determine limits and regulations for shorezone development – as well as public access and recreation issues – for at least the next 20 years in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
The shorezone document, if approved, has the potential to bolster efforts to protect lake clarity, but it could also invite endless litigation if not approached cautiously. After last summer’s public rejection of the sixth shorezone proposal, the board should know public opinion is of paramount importance to this process. As we’ve said in previous editorials, Lake Tahoe belongs to the people, not a government agency.
So we ask the Governing Board to study public opinion critically, judge the merits of opposing arguments and use all available information to determine if the public accepts this proposed set of rules. The draft will likely be released in April (TRPA staff has not yet indicated what changes from last summer’s Alternative 6 the document will include) and 60 days should be adequate time for a healthy public review. If 60 days is not enough, the public will let the board know, through calls, e-mails, letters and organized activism – like last summer.
All shareholders in the shorezone planning process hope the TRPA got it right this time, but there are no guarantees. The Governing Board has to realize the purpose of public hearings isn’t to affect how the public feels, it is to affect how the board votes.
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