TRPA eases line on building sites |

TRPA eases line on building sites

Wednesday marked the seventh time in eight years the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has eased residential building restrictions for Douglas County residents.

TRPA’s governing board unanimously and quickly lowered the commonly referred to “IPES line,” making another 83 parcels eligible for development in the lake portion of Douglas County.

TRPA has used IPES, the Individual Parcel Evaluation System, since 1987 to score all vacant private land in an effort to limit residential development.

IPES gauges residential parcels’ environmental sensitivity to determine whether homes can be built on them. The system assigns scores based on such factors as proximity to streams, slope and runoff potential.

Parcels with a score below the new line of 523 in Douglas County are deemed too sensitive for construction, while those ranked above are eligible for development.

IPES was developed with the intent of lowering the line, by which five requirements must be met. Douglas and Washoe counties have met the requirements, however Placer and El Dorado counties have not, and therefore the IPES lines on the California side of the basin has never been lowered.

This has been a point of contention in the past, resulting in a review of the IPES system and lawsuits between homeowner groups and the TRPA.

Attorney Larry Hoffman, representing the Tahoe Sierra Preservation Council, consisting of 100 plaintiffs, filed suit against the TRPA in January 2000, claiming an illegal “taking” of property because the TRPA can’t deny property owners the right to build on their land without compensation under the Fifth Amendment.

An Eastern District court in Sacramento found the suit was not timely, according to the TRPA, and the Preservation Council appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento where it has yet to be heard.

There are about 2,000 parcels in California that cannot be built upon because of the current rules. The primary way the IPES line could be lowered in California is if agencies such as the California Tahoe Conservancy or Forest Service buy environmentally sensitive lots. The fewer parcels identified as sensitive the closer Placer and El Dorado counties will be to meeting the requirements to lower the line.

Pam Drum, TRPA’s public affairs coordinator, said lines could also potentially be lowered if more private owners bought environmentally sensitive parcels, but the land is more expensive.

As the Preservation Council waits for its appeal to be considered and the Douglas County IPES line continues to lower, real estate agents say most California homeowners in the basin have accepted the IPES won’t move.

“There’s no one anymore who’s frustrated really,” said Coldwell Banker real estate agent Greg Dalmas. “People usually know when their buying a property whether its buildable or not. Plus there’s such a small amount of land that everybody know what’s buildable or not buildable.”

Dalmas said the IPES line hasn’t hurt his business, although he said parcels eligible for development that sit next to a lot that falls below the line are desirable because they’re given a higher value.

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