RIBAUDO: TRPA is Lost in the weeds
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board must get the regional plan done.
Of all the public agencies that hold sway in Lake Tahoe, perhaps the most powerful is the TRPA. Every element of what can and can’t be done in the basin is controlled by this board, and its influence on the environment, the economy and the local community cannot be understated.
The future of the basin and the local community will be controlled through the new regional plan. The problem to date is that the board of governors has been unable or unwilling to get a plan done.
This merry band of board members, consisting of elected officials as well as people appointed by elected officials, has failed at Pathway 2007 and is now going sideways and falling behind on its latest effort to get a regional plan done.
TRPA reinvigorated the Regional Plan Update process last year and, until recently, had it moving forward.
The process of the regional plan consists of a number of distinct steps.
The first is an agreement to focus on the major issues and develop four distinct alternatives for the regional plan. The second step is to do an Environmental Impact Statement that looks at each of the alternatives, and the final step is to develop the code and regulations that support the best alternative. This requires about 12 milestones or checkpoints to complete the entire process with a timeline of 18 to 24 months. Reasonable enough.
The trouble is, the governing board has already failed to meet its own timeline. It has become mired in detail and failed to focus on the major issues that need to set the strategic direction of the plan and the let staff flesh out the details. At times, some board members are not prepared, having not read the material necessary.
The board has had a tough time making the decisions necessary to move the process forward.
One board member, Mara Bresnick, instigated an overhaul of the fourth alternative to incorporate suggestions from the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Sierra Club and other environmental organizations.
Now it is a fourth alternative with much time allocated to it. Mind you, all stakeholders, including each of these groups, had plenty of input, but Bresnick, former board member Steve Merrill and current board member Bryon Scher managed to carry the water for these groups and add months of extra work, further delaying the plan.
This process started back in 2005 with the Pathway process, and every issue has been vetted and discussed many times.
You might be interested to know some of the inclusions that some environmental groups would like to see in their alternative for the new regional plan.
How about everyone in the basin having their Best Management Practices done within three years of the regional plan acceptance?
Despite the fact that we are in the worst recession in history, people would now be required to spend somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 to complete BMPs within three years of the regional plan being approved.
To many families this is a choice between feeding their families and doing BMPs.
Or how about this recommendation? New day-use facilities would not be permitted on low-capability land, which includes public beach areas.
That would mean no more bike trails along the shoreline, or renovated restrooms at the beach for us citizens in the future.
Why in the world does the governing board believe it has to listen to these environmental groups when hundreds of other stakeholders are prepared with moving forward?
The governing board needs to get control of the process, get out of the detail and get the regional plan done.
It seems the board does not realize there is an urgency to finish the process. There is a lack of awareness and respect among the board.
By catering to these groups, the board is wasting taxpayer money. The constant delay is impacting near-shore water clarity, the local environment and our communities.
There is some potential hope on the horizon. There will be a new chairman of the board. El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago is set to take over and, hopefully, she can get the process reinvigorated and on track.
The other elected officials are now feeling the full force of the recession’s impact on their own budgets; perhaps that will focus them on the urgency on getting this plan done.
There are some new members on the board, and maybe they can be helpful in focusing on the finish line.
Memo to the TRPA governing board: You are wasting taxpayer money and you must get the regional plan done. Your constituents are waiting.
– Carl Ribaudo is a contributing columnist to the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He is the president of the Strategic Marketing Group, a small marketing consultancy with experience working with the tourism, recreation and hospitality industries. He is also a consultant, speaker and writer who lives at the South Shore. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read his full column and additional blog posts at www.