TRPA lifts moratorium
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Wednesday lifted a moratorium on building housing subdivisions in certain parts of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
The action will stand at least until May, when TRPA’s governing board will again consider whether all of the basin’s jurisdictions – South Lake Tahoe as well as El Dorado, Douglas, Washoe and Placer counties – have done their “fair share” to provide affordable housing at Tahoe.
For five years, TRPA has annually revisited the issue of whether the basin’s communities have done their part to help create low- and very low-income housing for ski resort and casino employees as well as other low-wage earners.
If the fair-share finding is not made, a limited moratorium goes into effect for those areas at Tahoe targeted as good affordable housing sites. The action is supposed to keep higher-priced subdivisions from taking limited building space away from possible future affordable housing sites.
In December TRPA’s staff was recommending some of the basin’s counties not be recognized as having done their fair share. If TRPA’s governing board had agreed, it would be the first time all the jurisdictions’ efforts were not recognized.
Prior to going before the decision-making board, however, the agency’s advisory board in December urged the staffers to reconsider and look at more information that would be provided.
The reason for the disagreement was TRPA has no set standards for what creates the pass-fail line for providing affordable housing. It’s a subjective decision opponents said TRPA shouldn’t be making.
“No one has ever formally defined in this agency what ‘fair share’ is,” Bob Sellman, Washoe County community development director, told the board Wednesday.
Since no action was taken in 1999, however, the moratorium went into effect Jan. 1.
This week TRPA staff recommended recognizing all jurisdictions’ efforts; however, they wanted the issue brought back earlier than December.
The board unanimously approved to lift the moratorium and discuss the issue again in May.
In the meantime, TRPA officials, the counties and the city of South Lake Tahoe are supposed to try to find ways to make it easier to build affordable housing inside the Tahoe Basin.
Officials from Douglas and Washoe counties have said many of the impediments are TRPA’s regulations. Others cite high land costs.
“For some of the projects (in several counties), the hurdles are just astronomical,” said Tom Davis, who represented the city of South Lake Tahoe on the board at Wednesday’s meeting.
Rochelle Nason, executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe, urged the board to be cautious. Removing the moratorium for only a limited time, she said, may “very well set off a scramble of subdivision applications” that could “gobble up” the available land.
“That’s the problem with announcing a pending moratorium,” she said. “It’s not a good idea.”
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