Regional Plan Update: Development of recreation areas cited as concern
Since its release last month, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Regional Plan Update has stoked fears of a new era of overdevelopment at Lake Tahoe.
And allowing hotel rooms and homes in areas slated for recreation was one of the major concerns of people who attended public meetings over the long-awaited regional plan this week.
The third alternative in the environmental document for the plan includes a change that could allow tourist, commercial and residential development in areas zoned for recreation by TRPA.
Areas included under the designation cover 45,208 acres – 22 percent – of the Lake Tahoe Basin and include beaches and ski areas.
Alternative three is one of five options in the Regional Plan Update’s environmental document and is closest to the recommendations made by the TRPA’s RPU Committee. The alternative is likely to be the focus of much of the discussion as the update moves forward.
The change to what is allowed in recreation areas is part of the agency’s goal to encourage more pedestrian- and bike-friendly development, said TRPA spokesman Jeff Cowen, who used the Homewood Master Plan as an example. Any development in areas zoned for recreation would be required to show how they will improve Lake Tahoe’s environment, Cowen added.
Ann Nichols of the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance said the Regional Plan Update “totally misses the mark” and said the change to the recreation classification will encourage development of open space.
“The focus has gone to development and the economy,” Nichols said.
Allowing development in recreation areas will favor large developers like Vail Resorts, Nichols argued, adding the regional plan should focus on redevelopment and enforcing infiltration of stormwater.
Tahoe Vista resident Ellie Waller said the change should not be included in the Regional Plan Update. Any changes should be looked at on a parcel-by-parcel basis following passage of the plan, Waller said.
Both Nichols and Waller said they were also concerned with changing large plots of land at the South Shore to the recreation designation from a more restrictive conservation classification.
Approval of Alternative 3 in the environmental document of the plan would change 250 acres of private land next to South Shore casinos from conservation to recreation. Van Sickle Bi-State Park would also switch from a conservation to a recreation designation under the option.
While the concern about over-development is legitimate, said TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan, caps on construction included in the Regional Plan Update will prevent the runaway development that led to creation of the agency in the first place.
Even the most permissive of the alternatives envisions a Lake Tahoe Basin population lower than what it was in 2000, Regan said.
No specific projects are proposed, and it is not possible to speculate on the nature or size of projects that might be considered under the change to the recreation classification, according to the regional plan’s land use chapter.
New developments could result in impacts to air quality, noise, traffic, water quality and scenic values. Any development would be required to secure building allocations in line with what is authorized by the TRPA, be within an approved Master Plan or Area Plan and undergo project-specific environmental review.
How development plays into the change in the recreation classification is expected to be discussed further by the TRPA’s Governing Board as the Regional Plan Update moves forward, Regan said.