Planning Commission votes no new Glenbrook piers
No stranger to controversial issues, the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency this month is scheduled to address the idea of banning all future construction of piers at Glenbrook.
TRPA’s Advisory Planning Commission Wednesday endorsed a proposal to amend Glenbrook’s plan area statement to prohibit new piers within its boundaries. However, the approval wasn’t without disagreement and discussion – almost three hours worth, with building consultants and lawyers representing various people.
The issue has come before Lake Tahoe’s bistate regulatory agency for a variety of reasons. In the 1980s, ordinances were drafted detailing the wish of Glenbrook homeowners to keep new piers out of the bay. However, those plans became a guide for development there, not a regulation.
Daiss – and, according to the proponents, a majority of the members in the two property owners’ associations at the upscale Lake Tahoe community – support the new amendment to solidify what is outlined in the guide.
One reason for the residents’ push now is that TRPA is in the process of amending its shorezone ordinances. Property owners are concerned that the proposed changes may allow more piers in the bay, which now are almost pier-free.
Another reason, and one that has made recent headlines, is that two Glenbrook residents – Harvey Whittemore and Larry Ruvo – have two applications currently submitted to TRPA for piers in the bay. If approved, the Glenbrook residents feel, that could open up the possibility for up to 15 other piers to be built along the beach.
Under today’s rules, there is serious question as to whether any of the 15 possibilities could be built, said Gary Midkiff, a consultant representing Daiss. Depending on TRPA’s upcoming shorezone amendments, that may change.
Whittemore’s and Ruvo’s proposals have been met with significant controversy. There currently is a pending Douglas County District Court lawsuit to block the construction of one of the piers. Additionally, a recent pier proposal by Whittemore – a powerful casino lobbyist in Nevada – was slipped into a Senate Bill at the last minute. The controversial move brought a lot of attention to both Whittemore and the senator who introduced it. Branded “piergate,” the issue’s latest development in the Legislature was Monday when Assembly Commerce and Labor Chairwoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said there was no way she would consider the bill in the form the Senate had approved.
Whittemore and his attorney, Pat Cashill, attended Wednesday’s meeting, urging the board to deny the amendments.
Denying Whittemore the ability to apply for a pier, Cashill argued, represents a “taking” of property, an issue for which TRPA has been to court before. Under the Constitution, others have argued, if there is a “taking” of property by a government agency, that agency must reimburse property owners. Not conceding liability, TRPA recently settled one “taking” suit with a $600,000 purchase of land. Cashill was co-counsel in that suit.
“This organization, TRPA, neither has the power nor the funds to take anyone’s property,” Cashill told the board. “The (recently settled) Suitum litigation proved TRPA does take. And if it does take, it has to pay.”
If the board doesn’t deny the request to ban piers in the bay, Cashill cautioned, TRPA could open itself up to another lawsuit.
Diass’s attorney, Andrew MacKenzie, however, argued the opposite.
“We do not think this is an unlawful taking of property. … (Stopping pier construction) does not destroy all economically viable uses of the property,” he said.
TRPA planner Coleen Shade said the agency’s staff supported the pier-building prohibition because it would preserve the natural, historic and scenic values of the bay.
It was a difficult decision for the board. The vote was 9-5.
“I feel embarrassed for this agency,” said Jim Haen, the California lay member on the commission, who left before voting. “I think we’ve been drawn into a feud between old property and new property. I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
“I am not (embarrassed),” said commissioner Alice Baldrica, who represents the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office.
She supported the pier ban, primarily because the historic importance of Glenbrook Bay. “I think sometimes we forget there are other (issues before the board) that deal with things besides water quality,” she said.
Commissioner John Doughty, the planning/building/economic development manager for Douglas County, voted against the proposal. He said he would hate to see piers developed in the sandy beach area of Glenbrook. However, the southern part of the bay is a less scenic area, and he said the option of putting piers there should be pursued.
Commissioner Sharon Kvas, representing Washoe County Community Development, said that the issue should be addressed in a different forum. It should be included in TRPA’s pending lake-wide shorezone amendments, she said.
TRPA’s governing board is scheduled to consider the issue on May 26.
What: TRPA meeting
When: May 26, 9:30 a.m.
Where: Tahoe City Public Utility District Board Room, 221 Fairway Drive, Tahoe City
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Update 9:15 a.m. — Power has been restored to about 3,700 customers, according to the Liberty Utilities outage map.