TRPA board member might be willing to reconsider vote on housing project
July 11, 2009
More than two weeks ago, Lake Tahoe Basin regulators discussed the development of a 50-unit subdivision on the Nevada side of the South Shore for more than eight hours, eventually approving the development after a marathon session.
Still, discussion on the Sierra Colina Village Project continues.
El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago defended her June approval of the subdivision at a Lake Tahoe Democratic Club meeting on Wednesday, and said she would consider making a motion to reconsider last month’s decision.
Santiago, who approved the Sierra Colina Village in her role as a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board member, made the statements following a debate with environmental advocate Laurel Ames on the merits of the project.
Proponents of Sierra Colina – which is near Burke Creek on the Nevada side of the South Shore – contend treatment systems contained in the project go well beyond current water quality requirements in the Lake Tahoe Basin and that the developers should be lauded for including those features in their plans.
But the water quality section of the project’s environmental document is “horribly flawed” and a project of this magnitude should not be built on undeveloped land until the TRPA reaches its environmental standards, Ames contended on Wednesday.
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An anticipated reduction in fine sediment runoff from the area where Sierra Colina would be built and a 10-acre parcel designated for conservation along Burke Creek that is part of the project were two of the features that Santiago said led her to approve the project.
The likelihood of a large estate being built on the property if the 50-unit option was rejected by the board was also a major consideration for Santiago during her decision-making, the supervisor said.
“I’m looking for environmental benefits on lands people have a right to develop on,” Santiago said.
But a lack of equal time for experts backed by basin environmental groups to present their analysis of the environmental consequences of the project at the June 24 meeting where the project was approved is grounds for the board to reconsider its approval of Sierra Colina, Ames said.
The uneven amounts of time given to conservation group experts and those in favor of the project “sucks,” Santiago said, adding she would consider Ames’ call for reconsideration.
But the Sierra Colina project exposed a larger flaw in the TRPA’s current operations, Santiago said.
When a much-delayed regional plan update will be complete is unknown and, until that update is approved, the agency will be exposed to legal challenges during any project reviews, Santiago said.
Although she didn’t say whether she supported a moratorium on development projects until a regional plan update is complete, Santiago said the board needs to have that discussion.
“We need to update the regional plan and that’s where the board needs to focus,” Santiago said Wednesday.