TRPA backs off vacation homes
December 17, 2003
Interested parties to work out agreement
By Gregory Crofton
Tribune staff writer
STATELINE – The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency all but gave in Wednesday to owners who want to rent their property to tourists.
Although vacation home rentals are illegal under the land-use segment of the agency’s Compact, it is willing to tweak the document to accommodate people.
“Essentially everything we wanted to accomplish we got accomplished,” said Dennis Crabb, an attorney who represents the Vacation Rental Working Group. “Staff and board really reached out. They really understand it is not a TRPA issue. The question is how do we move this to the local governments.”
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The Governing Board agreed to lay ground rules and goals as the agency heads into a series of meetings with property managers, real estate agents, homeowners and others over how to define and/or regulate vacation rentals at the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Prior to its decision, Crabb argued that the TRPA, by not making a decision in the last few months, has left the vacation rental industry to operate in a fog.
That sparked discussion on how to deal with the fact that TRPA has ignored issues involving vacation rentals since it adopted its Regional Plan in 1987.
Michael Applegarth, an aide to Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, said the agency had been dragging its feet for too long and that it needs to take itself out of the debate.
“We really feel residents in the basin have a right to be leery of the Governing Board,” Applegarth said. “It sends the message to local residents this board cannot be trusted.”
People who want the TRPA involved in the issue did attend the meeting, but they were outnumbered by the dozens who came to represent the vacation rental industry.
“I have 18 vacation rentals within 200 yards of my house,” said Jerry Goodman of South Lake Tahoe. “These mini-motels are intended for single families and zoned as such. Don’t water down codes because it is the path of least resistance.”
Michael Donahoe, conservation co-chair of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, called for environmental analysis of the vacation rentals at the basin.
“That is the level of review called for in the Compact before it is turned over to local jurisdictions,” Donahoe said. “Which is probably where it needs to end up.”
Representatives of the vacation rental industry balked at the mention of such a report saying people who rent vacation homes have less of an impact on the environment than full-time residents.
Deborah Palmer, an attorney who represents Zephyr Heights General Improvement District, said that claim is flat-out wrong.
“My clients are answering to the TRPA on erosion issues,” Palmer said. “It is a steep area and there are absolute impacts by vacation rentals. I have photos of buses (in the area).”
Palmer, who filed 17 complaints regarding vacation rentals with the TRPA regarding Zephyr Heights, is the one who brought the issue to the attention of the agency. Palmer said she did so because Douglas County refused to address the nuisance issues, deferring them to the TRPA.
“If you adopt an ordinance, it should allow people to choose not to have vacation rentals in their neighborhood,” said Palmer, adding that “allowing short-term rentals decreases the amount of affordable housing … people are leaving the basin because they can’t afford it anymore.”
– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org