TRPA allocation decision affects South Shore |

TRPA allocation decision affects South Shore

South Lake Tahoe stands to get hit hardest if the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency decides Wednesday to link the number of properties built on annually to environmental work, said Hal Cole, a member of South Lake Tahoe City Council and TRPA Governing Board.

People who get in line to build a house in South Lake Tahoe have about a 7-year wait because the city is allowed to build on 34 lots each year and the list runs 230 people deep.

Other jurisdictions end up being allowed to build on more land than they can use, while South Lake Tahoe is desperate for permission to build, Cole said.

But the TRPA and environmental groups, such as the League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, argued at public hearings and workshops that the change in policy, which would link the amount of development to erosion control, transportation and water quality projects, is a must because Lake Tahoe Basin is not meeting its environmental goals.

They argued that jurisdictions can earn the right to build on 294 lots, nearly the base number in use today, with good environmental performance.

“In all, I think it’s a good package,” said Jon-Paul Harris, program director at the League. “I don’t think its too onerous on the counties participating.

“Everyone had a chance to give a lot of input. No one is getting everything they wanted, but we’ve reached a good middle ground that we’re satisfied with. I wouldn’t say we’re thrilled with it, but it’s an improvement.”

TRPA staff at first proposed reducing the number of lots that can be built on each year from 300 to 225. But environmental groups said the proposed change was insufficient. TRPA responded by proposing to decrease the number of lots that can be built on to 150, with additional lots awarded for solid environmental work in each county.

“There are a number of people in line who own property for a lifetime and get caught in the middle of this,” Cole said. “That’s the person I’m really trying to represent. I’m all for controlling growth, but it’s got to be done in a fair manner.”

Many of the buildable lots assigned to the counties around the lake go unused, ending up in a pool. Cole said those lots shouldn’t go into a pool but instead should go to a county that needs them.

“What’s done is they are put in a pool and the only way to access them is to retire an environmentally sensitive lot,” Cole said. “Right now, those cost $35,000. So for $35,000 you can get (the right to build).”

Juan Palma, TRPA executive director, has pointed out that his staff has addressed the needs of South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County by “reshuffling” the number of allocations assigned to each jurisdiction.

If the two jurisdictions perform well under the proposed system, the number of allocations for South Lake Tahoe would increase from 38 to 47; the number for El Dorado County would increase from 92 to 111.

But Cole said he thinks it will be difficult to maintain a performance score that would allow the city to receive 47 allocations beyond next year.

“This is what I call front-loaded,” Cole said. “There is the possibility in the first year we’d get the same amount of allocations. But this whole thing is tied to things the city has no control of.

“We don’t have any discretion to do the big EIP (Environmental Improvement Program) projects, those rely on state and federal funds … we’re totally at their mercy.”

Harries said something needs to be changed because the 2001 Threshold Evaluation, a TRPA progress report done every five years and released in December, stated the agency’s work was not producing adequate results. “These linkages started looking real attractive because they would allow the same level of development but also ensure environmental improvement,” Harries said. “I don’t think we should stick our heads in the sand and hope everything is going to be OK when environmental evaluation says we’re not making the progress we should be.”

In other action Wednesday, the Governing Board will discuss and possibly vote on:

A strategy to protect the Tahoe yellow cress, a plant that grows only at the basin.

Clarification of what business signs are legal at South Lake Tahoe.

Announce a resolution concerning dead tree removal.

Approve a $5,000 increase in the salary of the agency’s lead attorney, from $95,700 to $100,900 a year.

Approve expansion of the Pro Shop at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

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