TRPA approves Tahoe pier project — with conditions
STATELINE (AP) — Amid accusations of favoritism and pro-growth bias, a panel governing Lake Tahoe development voted 9-3 Wednesday for a controversial private pier in the lake’s pristine Glenbrook Bay.
But the California-Nevada Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board imposed conditions that could still kill the project sought by powerful Nevada casino lobbyist Harvey Whittemore, liquor merchant Larry Ruvo, and Edward Fein. All have lakefront properties in Glenbrook.
One condition requires a court ruling that the project won’t “unreasonably interfere with any recreational-access rights” held by the Glenbrook Homeowners Association, which opposes the 100-yard-long pier.
Another condition calls for a court ruling that Fein lacks legal access to the existing community pier in Glenbrook Bay. The homeowners association insists that he, just like any property owner in the upscale community on the Nevada side of Tahoe, does have that access.
If those conditions aren’t met, the pier project is sunk. A hearing on the case is scheduled Friday in Reno before U.S. Magistrate Robert McQuaid.
The vote was the latest development in a long-running controversy that included a “piergate” scandal during the 1999 Nevada Legislature when Whittemore slipped in an amendment that would have helped the project.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Mark James, R-Las Vegas, whose private law practice clients include Ruvo, helped get the amendment through the Senate. But it was killed in the Assembly.
In Wednesday’s vote, all seven Nevada members of the TRPA board favored the project, a last-minute revision of a proposal that had been rejected earlier by the agency’s staff.
Of the five California members present, three voted “no.” They included Jerome Waldie, the state Senate’s appointee; Ron Slaven, representing Gov. Gray Davis; and Dave Solaro, representing El Dorado County.
“The TRPA has abdicated its duties,” attorney Ron Zumbrun, representing the Glenbrook Preservation Association which joined the homeowners in opposing the pier, said following the vote.
“The board has proved today this is preferential treatment, and they’re not following their required procedures.”
Rochelle Nason of the League to Save Lake Tahoe added, “I’m disappointed but not surprised. We have a very pro-development agency reviewing a project prepared by very powerful people.”
Doug Jones, head of the homeowners association, joined in condemning the TRPA vote, but added, “I’m confident we can prevail in court.”
Whittemore said he was happy with the ruling — and hopeful that the pier proponents would get a favorable judicial decision.
“We’re very pleased,” said Whittemore. “This is very, very important. But this is the 10th step in an 11-step process, and there are significant issues remaining in court.”
Juan Palma, the TRPA’s executive director, denied there was any favoritism. While critics said the panel was bowing to wealthy and powerful interests, Palma said, “I just see other human beings.”
Palma pushed for an immediate vote on the proposal rather than a delay. He was joined by the TRPA board chairman, Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller. The motion for approval was made by Wayne Perock of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The original plan was for a fixed pier with two boat lifts. The amended plan, submitted Dec. 5, is for a floating pier about the same length, with the lifts on lakefront property owned by Fein.
The private pier would be located about 400 feet south of the existing community pier — the only one that now traverses one of the most beautiful beaches at Tahoe.
Opponents said the TRPA ignored obvious environmental and visual problems that the private structure would create — along with its expected use for big yachts bringing guests to crowded, noisy parties.
The critics noted Ruvo’s big events last year included a fund-raiser for then-presidential hopeful George Bush.
In addition to the pier vote, the TRPA board also voted unanimously for an amendment that would ensure there are no piers — other than the existing community pier — in the center of Glenbrook Bay.
The Whittemore-Ruvo-Fein project would be located just south of the no-more-piers zone.
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