TRPA denies appeal to stop construction on cell tower
STATELINE, Nev. — An appeal to delay construction of a cell tower on Ski Run Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe failed on Tuesday.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board voted to not support an appeal that was seeking to stop construction due to the appellants believing that additional soils and hydrology work needed be performed after the agency approved a plan revision to increase the maximum depth of excavation for the Verizon cell tower by six feet.
The appeal was filed on Aug. 22 by Allen Miller, David Benedict, and Benjamin Lebovitz. The appellants, represented by Miller on Tuesday, claimed that with the agency allowing deeper excavation than was previously approved when issuing Verizon a permit, that it would interfere with groundwater and insisted that a hydrology expert from outside the agency needed to be called in.
In response to the stay request, Verizon agreed to delay pouring of concrete for its 112-foot high monopine cell tower until after the Sept. 28 governing board meeting.
TRPA on Sept. 1 had its soils consultant Marchel Munnecke inspect the cell tower site where Verizon had excavated to approximately 7.5 feet on the uphill side and 5 feet on the downhill side. According to the staff report, Munnecke performed a soils analysis on the existing cut and determined groundwater was not present and that the presence of bedrock confirmed the results of Verizon’s submitted soils/hydrology report.
Munnecke returned to the site on Sept. 14, after Verizon dug deeper to observe the results at 13.5 feet and found “no ground water was intercepted and no evidence of seasonal high groundwater was encountered.”
Miller argued that TRPA issued the revision without properly notifying the public and that with the increased depth, the agency should have prepared a second Initial Environmental Checklist to review the added depth of excavation.
The TRPA staff report said since Verizon’s plan concerned only an increase in depth and did not concern any of the special use findings made by the hearings officer and affirmed by the governing board, the agency acted appropriately. And with no interception of groundwater from the increase in depth no supplemental IEC was required.
The appeal was the latest attempt by opponents to stop construction of the cell tower. The city of South Lake Tahoe approved the cell tower and then again supported it in 2020 when the city council’s initial decision was appealed.
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