Parking cited by Douglas commissioners in synagogue’s rejection
STATELINE, Nev. — What would have been the first synagogue in Douglas County history was refused a special use permit eight days before Passover after county commissioners overturned a planning commission approval.
Commissioners John Engels, Walt Nowosad and Danny Tarkanian voted in favor of an appeal by two tenants of the building located at 255 Kingsbury Grade, while Wes Rice and Mark Gardner voted in favor.
A special use permit for Chabad Lake Tahoe Synagogue was approved by planning commissioners on Feb. 8, and the congregation paid $2.5 million for the Kingsbury Grade structure as a result.
“We would not need a special use permit for a cultural event,” representative Lew Feldman said at the April 7 meeting. “We need a permit to pray.”
Building tenants Blue Sky Events and Talie Jane Interiors appealed planning commissioners’ approval of the synagogue.
The largest user of the building, Kingsbury Grade General Improvement District, is scheduled to move out by February 2024 when its lease expires.
Feldman said the building had been on the market for a long time before it was purchased by the temple.
Plans for the building were to renovate the upper floor for the Synagogue, which would be done in October.
The building has 20 parking spaces and the temple is required to have 14 spaces when there are services. There are four spaces along Market Street which can be counted, Planning Manager Sam Booth said.
The district uses 10 spaces while the two commercial tenants combine for seven.
Feldman pointed out that members of the Chabad can gather at the location without a permit for anything but a formal worship service.
“If the appeal is granted the result would be to simply forbid the Jewish Community of Lake Tahoe the right to assemble and pray at the property, notwithstanding their ownership of the asset.”
Services occur on Saturdays and on holy days, of which Feldman said there are four a year.
There are 25 members to the Chabad, which is an orthodox faith.
“Many members do not use modern conveniences on the high holidays, which includes vehicles,” Feldman said. “They sometimes walk miles because it’s their faith.”
According to Booth’s calculations there would be a shortage of seven parking spaces on special holidays.
One of those holidays, Seder Passover, started at sundown on Friday and continues at sundown tonight. Passover ends April 23 at sundown.
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