TRPA denies cell tower appeal in South Tahoe

Laney Griffo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board on Wednesday denied an appeal to revoke a permit for the Verizon Wireless Monopine at 1360 Ski Run Boulevard.

The South Lake Tahoe City Council approved the permit in June 2019 and TRPA hearings officers gave their approval in October 2021.

Since the permit was approved by council, several members of the community have fought against the tower, including Monica Eisenstecken who owns the property adjacent to the cell tower site.

The appellants have used similar arguments throughout the whole process, citing potential environmental and human health issues.

Included in the appeal to TRPA was a new concern they’ve raised, that the pine needles on the monopine will break-off and end up in the lake, adding to the lake’s growing microplastic problem.

TRPA staff and Verizon reviewed the complaint and found the needles are made of PVC, which doesn’t break down into microplastics. In addition, they found that the pine is located far enough from the lake that they shouldn’t find their way into the lake.

Dr. Monica Arienzo, Desert Research Institute, is leading the research into microplastics in Lake Tahoe. She reviewed the findings and agreed that they were reasonable.

The appellants and public commenters pointed out that snowmelt from Heavenly could easily bring the needles to the lake.

TRPA amended the permit to require Verizon to inspect the site twice a year and remove all the needles around the site. TRPA will also be required to inspect Verizon’s work.

Governing Board Member Belinda Faustinos said she personally did not agree with the cell tower but within her role as board member, she found no sound reason to grant the appeal.

The board voted to deny the appeal, and voted to agree with the staff report which stated there was no finding of significant environmental effect, and to the permit amendment.

Board Member Cody Bass voted to accept the appeal and Chair Mark Bruce recused himself from the vote.

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