South Lake Tahoe council denies DIY Center
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – In front of a packed house on Tuesday, the South Lake Tahoe City Council denied a permit for a Do It Yourself Center to move into the old South Shore Motors building.
The council reversed a Planning Commission decision that had granted a special use permit for the project.
Tuesday’s council decision was applauded by representatives of local businesses and sent proponents of the home improvement center looking at their legal options.
The council made the decision in considering an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision filed by Scotty’s Hardware owner Robert Cosmi and the store’s office manager, Peggy Cocores. The hardware store is across the street from an Ace Hardware store and the building where the home improvement center was to operate.
Cosmi, who had feared the center would drive him out of business, said he was grateful for the council’s decision on behalf of all the store owners in the area who may have been hurt by the opening of the home improvement center.
“I guess it goes to show that going the extra mile to sell a screw really pays off,” Cosmi said, referring to several people who spoke at the council meeting about the over-the-top helpfulness of employees at the hardware store.
Lew Feldman, the South Shore attorney representing the Do It Yourself Center, told the council the opening of the center would create much-needed jobs in an economy where “For Lease” signs are rivaling operating businesses.
“It’s disappointing,” Feldman said after the vote. “I certainly understand the difficult position the council is in trying to protect longtime businesses. However it does not appear to be a decision in the best interest of the community.”
Although Feldman didn’t say litigation over Tuesday’s permit denial was imminent, he said proponents of the Do It Yourself will get together to examine the legal issues surrounding the council’s decision.
Whether the city can consider the competition a new business would provide to existing businesses when granting a permit was a focus of discussion by the council on Tuesday.
Councilmembers received different legal advice on the competition issue on Tuesday than the Planning Commission did last month.
While City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo told the Planning Commission that they couldn’t take competition into account when considering a permit application, new City Attorney Jacqueline Mittlestadt told the City Council they can include competition as part of the “necessary and desirable” requirement for permit approval. The council cannot use competition as its sole determining factor in approving or denying a permit, Mittlestadt added.
Several council members said they didn’t consider the competition the center would provide to Scotty’s Hardware in their decision, but said a third store at the “Y” with a focus on hardware was something that didn’t fit the “necessary and desirable” requirement.
“I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it’s necessarily desirable,” said city councilwoman Kathay Lovell.
Councilman Hal Cole questioned whether the Do It Yourself Center would really create jobs in town, noting it could drive existing businesses out.
“You’re projecting this as economic growth and that may not be true when you look at the entire community,” Cole said.
Although Cole said the desirability requirements may need to be reviewed because of their subjectivity, he echoed other members of the council in one of the reasons he gave for denying the permit for the Do It Yourself Center.
“I haven’t heard anything that we have a great need for this business in town,” Cole said.
South Lake Tahoe customers of South Tahoe Refuse Company will see a 4.92 percent rate increase following a review by the city council on Tuesday.
The city council did not vote on the cost-of-living increase because it is allowed as part of the city’s operating agreement.
The City Council can only examine whether such increases are accurately calculated under the agreement, said out-going City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo
R3 Consulting Group Inc. examined the rate increase and found it was accurate. The refuse company will pay the $760 the consultants to look at the rate increase, DiCamillo said.
The rate hike will result in additional costs of $12.84 annually for residential customers and $10.92 annually for qualified seniors, according to a city staff report. The rate increase will be retroactive to April.
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