Some fire victims hit with stop-work orders
Although the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and El Dorado County have made efforts to streamline regulations following this summer’s Angora fire, some victims of the fire remain angered by stop-work orders issued during the rebuilding process.
A request to take “corrective action,” meaning a property owner is told to improve conditions on their lot, is a common occurrence, according to TRPAspokesman Dennis Oliver.
The notice does not require property owners to stop work, but informs them of a condition on their property that could be detrimental to the environmental health of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Conditions requiring corrective action are “typically very minor and easy to fix” — usually something as simple as an improperly covered pile of loose dirt or incorrectly installed erosion-control measures, Oliver said.
In four cases since rebuilding began, a failure to respond to a request to take corrective action has led to the TRPA issuing cease-and-desist orders on rebuilding projects in the Angora fire burn area.
“Up and down that entire street they come by and red flag someone and stop them from working,” said Francine Ragona, the owner of a home on Mule Deer Circle destroyed during the Angora fire.
Work on Ragona’s property has been stopped twice during September and October by TRPA inspectors, Ragona said.
She says the stoppages have added to the headache of rebuilding a home and go against assurances of a speedy rebuilding process made by government officials shortly after the onset of the fire.
Both the county and the TRPA regularly patrol the area to ensure rebuilding projects remain in compliance with environmental regulations.
El Dorado County has issued “less than six” stop-work orders throughout the entire rebuilding process, according to Mike Applegarth, spokesman for El Dorado County.
“The bulk of those handful happened in roughly a two-week window around the grading-season deadline,” Applegarth said.
While a single property’s problem may not have a noticeable effect on the health of the lake, relatively minor issues on hundreds of properties could have a discernible impact, according to Oliver.
“If you don’t check at all and don’t provide this kind of guidance, well then you end up with a hundred of these minor things out of place,” Oliver said. “The whole goal is to keep the building going.”
Patty Lippe is rebuilding a home on Elk Point Road, and although she has not been affected by a stop-work order directly, she is also frustrated by county and TRPA involvement in the rebuilding process.
Lippe called El Dorado County and TRPA stopping home construction in the burn area “ridiculous.”
“Trust me,” Lippe said. “They’re not getting out of anyone’s way, not even their own.”
No properties in the burn area were under TRPA or county cease-and-desist orders as of Wednesday, according to Oliver and Applegarth.
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