South Lake Tahoe City Council: Police, fire, roads take priority over ‘Loop Road’ project | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Lake Tahoe City Council: Police, fire, roads take priority over ‘Loop Road’ project

South Lake Tahoe City Council is hosting a meeting to discuss the Loop Road Thursday, March 14.
Ryan Hoffman / Tahoe Daily Tribune

The city of South Lake Tahoe plans to continue taking a more active role in discussions on the U.S. 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project. However, those talks won’t exactly translate to dollars coming from city coffers.

That was the policy directive set by City Council earlier this month when it adopted a resolution stating the city’s fiscal intentions regarding the project, commonly referred to as the Loop Road project. The project calls for re-routing U.S. 50 around the Stateline casino corridor and Heavenly Village area.

As City Manager Frank Rush explained at council’s April 2 meeting, the proposed resolution focused on one of three main concerns conveyed at a March community meeting.

Those issues are: the route of the project, which Rush said couldn’t be addressed without scraping current plans; the city’s financial obligations for the project; and the impact of the project on the Rocky Point neighborhood where existing housing units will have to be destroyed.

The resolution, Rush clarified, was specifically in response to calls barring city funds going to the project.

It identifies the city’s budgetary priorities — police, fire, street maintenance and snow removal — and commits the city to spend available general revenues on those priorities, rather than the U.S. 50 project.

The resolution notes project-specific funding sources, such as grants, could be available in the future and should not be entirely dismissed.

The language on funding caught the attention of Councilor Cody Bass who, in stating he sees both sides of the larger project, said he would like to see clear language prohibiting any public money from the city going to the project.

Rush clarified that the resolution is a policy statement. Further, future grant applications or other efforts to secure project-specific funding sources would have to come before council for approval.

Councilor Devin Middlebrook questioned why the resolution did not address the concerns regarding the Rocky Point neighborhood.

He attempted to craft additional language addressing that issue while also strongly discouraging the use of eminent domain for the project.

That was in response to Bass’ desire to add language prohibiting eminent domain on the part of the city.

Councilor Tamara Wallace sided with Bass in supporting more prohibitive language than what Middlebrook suggested. She said the thought of using eminent domain made her “physically ill.”

Mayor Brooke Laine, in clarifying that eminent domain is a last resort issue when an agreement cannot be reached between the agency and property owner, said she favored Middlebrook’s proposed language because it did not completely close the door on the matter.

Rush reminded council that the intent of the resolution — which is more a political promise than a legally binding agreement — was to address funding concerns, and that it represented a deliberate first step in the city making its voice heard in the broader discussion on the project.

Council ultimately abandoned adding more language and adopted the resolution as it was presented on a 4-0 vote, with Councilor Jason Collin abstaining from the matter due to his ownership of real property in the proposed project area.

The U.S. 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project proposes rerouting U.S. 50 around the casino corridor, Heavenly Village and the Crescent V Shopping Center. That would allow for the creation of a “main street” area in the current U.S. 50 alignment.

The highway realignment would require the destruction of residential housing in what is described as a predominantly low-income neighborhood.

Numerous alignments and proposals have been discussed over the course of decades, and in 2018 the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency approved environmental documents for the current project.

Although a significant step forward, TRPA’s approval brought the project to about 30 percent completion, an official told council in March.