Scientific study may determine Burke Creek area’s future |

Scientific study may determine Burke Creek area’s future

Land near a creek at Stateline will undergo an expensive environmental study to determine how building on it would impact the environment.

The study will analyze 18 acres between Burke Creek and Lake Village, cost about $250,000 and take up to a year to complete.

Results will be included in a developer’s application to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to change zoning for the land. The change is necessary if 26 condominiums and 28 units of affordable housing proposed by the developer are to be built on the land.

“There are a number of people against the project, many who live in close proximity to the property,” said Randy Lane, managing member of Falcon Capital, a South Shore real estate group paying for the study.

“Everybody has an opinion, but it’s not based on science that has been done. Let’s go ahead to an environmental impact statement and determine the impact, if there is any,” Lane said.

Five years ago, people who oppose building on the 18 acres formed a group called the Friends of Burke Creek. Michael Donahoe, conservation co-chair of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, lives in Lake Village and is a founding member of Friends.

“The project supposedly includes affordable housing, but there’s no guarantee if it’s approved it has to be built,” Donahoe said. “We’re not sure affordable housing is their goal. It’s definitely something that is needed, but not on raw land right next to a creek.”

The land under scrutiny has pitted developers and environmentalists against each other before. In 1990, the U.S. Forest Service made an unsuccessful bid to buy the property, which Bob Rodman, land acquisition at the agency, said qualifies as sensitive because of wetlands and the creek.

In 1999, a developer applied for a permit to build 26 condominiums on the property. Environmentalists opposed the project to protect water quality. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board denied a permit for the condos.

In May 2002, Falcon, which is working on the project with a group of investors from Incline which owns the 18 acres, went public with its application to change the Plan Area Statement. The Friends has since had two fund-raisers to finance opposition of project.

In addition to the land being too sensitive to build on, the Friends say the development would cause traffic gridlock and increase danger for schoolchildren being shuttled to and from Kingsbury Middle School.

Falcon says the land has received a favorable rating from the TRPA and is conveniently located by a large employment base and commercial area.

Building a large number of residences on the 18 acres became a possibility in 1992 after a land speculator asked the TRPA to change regulations that limited building on the land to one residence.

The change required three conditions to be met: Access to the developed area must not be from Highway 50; development must be at least 200 feet from the highway; and that the land is not eligible for affordable housing bonus units.

In seeking to change the Plan Area Statement, Falcon wants the TRPA to allow it to change the setback requirement, to allow access from the highway and to gain a preferred affordable housing designation.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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