Patience required in working through permitting process
Simple tradition and modern day rules stand ready to collide on 8.5 acres nestled on the Eastern Shore of Lake Tahoe. Since the mid-1940s, the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada has operated a small summer camp and conference center named Galilee.
The foundation wants to add to the tradition of friendship and spirituality of the lake, and at the same time, keep up with progress.
Plans have been in place the last few years to expand, while maintaining the integrity of a camp that attracts group outings as diverse as a Christian motorcycle club and the Great Basin Outdoor School — a frequent user.
The Glenbrook camp accommodates 20 nonprofit organizations annually.
The diocese is seeking donations while hoping for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to say it meets the guidelines the regulatory agency had set in order for the group to keep operating under a conditional-use permit since June 2002. It has waited for two years for the final write-off from TRPA on its master plan permit. Once it meets remaining landscaping-type guidelines, it will have the go-ahead to move forward — if it has the money. The diocese has collected about $1 million, a twelfth of what it needs to complete its total wish list of improvements. They’ll be made in phases.
The camp plans to put on fund-raisers next fall to meet its goals, which include a $178,000 letter of credit to fulfill the best management practices.
In the meantime, the camp has gone back and forth with TRPA for more than a year to come to an agreement on a dining hall, adult conference center and recreation venue.
Camp operators Dorothy and Rob Ramsdell hired Gary Midkiff’s firm to handle the plans. Midkiff once worked for TRPA, so he’s familiar with the ins and outs of the processes.
“We can’t afford any more changes. Everything we spend (on them) means less money on the buildings,” Dorothy Ramsdell said.
A compliance officer will review conditions ranging from a sign redesign to a traffic study. The camp has also been asked to post a bond to pay for most of the landscaping costs, but it’s difficult to carry out the mission when donors want the permit in compliance before they decide to support the idea, the Ramsdells contend.
“We had to find a way to more than double the camp’s usefulness so we could support twice as many people,” said Kent Cooper, a Washington, D.C., diocese member and consulting architect for Tahoe’s diocese.
Camp Galilee has joined the hundreds of permit applications TRPA works on every day. According to Compliance Division Chief Steve Chilton, who oversees governmental affairs and compliance issues, the organization juggled about 450 applications on most days in July. In June, it took in 135 applications and approved 159.
“So we’re ahead of the curve,” Chilton said.
In the last five years, TRPA has found that having the counties handle some of the permit applications has helped expedite the pile of work the agency manages, Chilton said. Counties will oversee permit applications for work such as housing additions and tree removals — some of the most common resident jobs.
“The one-stop has helped because people need to go through the counties for building permits anyway,” he said.
The ball is in the camp’s court to meet the conditions in order to receive “acknowledgement” from TRPA. This essentially means the agency’s final nod of approval.
The conditions include shortening the distance between the camp’s water source and basin in its drainage system that may cost up to $2 million. It also must replace the wire fence with a wooden one. In addition, TRPA would like the camp to reconsider the removal of trees, Chilton explained.
It also needs to remove a sign from Highway 50.
“We do feel getting the final permit in hand will give us leverage,” said Joy Erlich, foundation executive director, referring to fund-raising prospects.
A few years ago, TRPA discovered the camp violated its land coverage guidelines.
Putting his best design skills to the test for a cause he believes in, Cooper began the work of drawing up a plan to build up instead of out.
The camp has planned for an adult conference center to accommodate 175 people from all walks of life. Foundation board members also intend to redesign its kitchen and dining hall as well as create a youth dormitory that resembles a tree house to sleep 48 campers and six counselors. There’s also a plan to build a recreation center to give the young people a place to go when the weather keeps campers in.
Environmental improvements have been placed on the list. There’s discussion over using solar heating or perhaps even a geothermal heat source.
“The camp cries out for (renewing) itself. The physical structure needs repair,” said former Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev.
Bryan was first introduced to the camp a half century ago when he rode up from Las Vegas with his family.