TRPA continues Burke Creek issue |

TRPA continues Burke Creek issue

Andy Bourelle

The Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency on Wednesday postponed its decision one month regarding whether its staff did the right thing by requiring comprehensive environmental documentation for a proposed Douglas County project.

A seemingly last-minute agreement had been reached between the developer and the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California on one of the major sticking points TRPA staff had with the proposed South Shore Estates project, located near Burke Creek and the Old Nugget Building that houses Stateline’s Burger King.

However, TRPA’s staff and board did not have enough time review the new development, according to John Marshall, the agency’s legal counsel. The governing board, if it were to take action Wednesday, would have to have done so without hearing details of the new agreement.

“Given this is a highly charged atmosphere, where we have potential litigants on both sides, I think it behooves the board to dot all the ‘I’s and cross all the ‘T’s,” Marshall said during the nearly four-hour debate.

Larry Hoffman, attorney for the developer, agreed to the postponement. Additionally, the developer, the tribe and the others concerned about the project are to work together over the next month. If the troublesome issues can be worked out, board members said, it is possible TRPA’s executive director could rescind his decision for the Environmental Impact Statement without taking the issue before the board again in September.

The developer is proposing building 26 detached, two-story, multi-family residences in an 18-acre area between Kahle Drive and the existing 300-plus-unit Lake Village condominiums.

Part of the project includes restoring a portion of Burke Creek, a stream that flows through the area. The developer had planned to sell the restored 5-acre portion to the U.S. Forest Service. As a part of the negotiations with the tribe, however, the developer would turn those acres over to the Washoe to mitigate potential cultural impacts there would be by building the condominiums.

One of the tribe’s primary goals is to again own land at Lake Tahoe, which has traditionally been the physical and spiritual center of the Washoe world.

“That site is very important to us,” said Brian Wallace, chairman of the Washoe Tribe.

“There’s been so much loss,” he added. “What’s left is even more valuable.”

The project went before TRPA in March for approval. However, a Washoe grinding stone was found on the property prior to the meeting, and TRPA’s board postponed its decision until another archeological study could be completed. The consultant archeologist’s second study conflicted with research done by the tribe. That conflict, as well as skepticism about the developer’s ability to mitigate traffic problems created by the project, facilitated TRPA staff to require the EIS.

The developer tried to appeal the decision Wednesday. The EIS could cost up to $100,000 and take up to a year.

While the EIS was to be completed because of cultural and transportation issues, other opponents of the project Wednesday said simply working those out will not be enough to warrant stopping the requirement for the EIS.

The California and Nevada Attorneys General, as well as the League to Save Lake Tahoe, all have indicated support for the EIS. Their concern about the project is that the development is a subdivision prohibited in TRPA’s code and would hurt Lake Tahoe’s water quality.

Members of the Friends of Burke Creek, a coalition of people who are trying to stop the project, agree.

Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League, said the EIS should not only be required, but it should also contain more data than that which only addresses cultural and transportation issues.

“If that is what the EIS would be confined to, we would litigate the matter,” Nason said.

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