TRPA may OK controversial project
Despite a previous request that comprehensive environmental documentation was needed for it, a controversial Douglas County project could be approved next week by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
Obstacles still exist, though.
TRPA’s staff on Sept. 22 will be recommending to the agency’s governing board to approve South Shore Estates, a 26-unit, multi-family development near Kahle Park, Lake Village and the Old Nugget Building that houses Stateline’s Burger King.
TRPA staff in July required the developer to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, a decision the developer tried to appeal last month. The board’s decision was postponed. TRPA staff, the developer and other concerned parties have been trying to address the project’s issues, and TRPA staff members no longer feel the EIS – which could take up to a year and cost $100,000 – is necessary.
However, that status could change by next week. An agreement between the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California is a key component in whether the EIS is necessary.
Brian Wallace, chairman of the Washoe Tribe, said Thursday the Washoe have not yet completed negotiations.
“We’ve been in contact with TRPA staff and the proponents for the project,” Wallace said. “We’re still trying to work out a few of the details of the proposal that’s being worked out to go before the governing board.”
Opposition to the project still exists, too.
“Our concerns are definitely still there,” said Dan Siegel, deputy attorney general for California. “We want them to develop a water quality assessment not only for this project but for allowing this type of subdivision to be built.”
The developer first proposed the project in late 1997 as a 44-unit development, but he has since changed the plans to 26.
Opponents have included the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the California and Nevada Attorneys General, a recently formed coalition called Friends of Burke Creek and the Washoe Tribe.
One of the reasons the EIS was required was because of conflicting reports from the developer and the tribe about cultural resources at the 18-acre property. To mitigate the cultural impacts to the tribe, Washoe officials and the developer have been trying to work out an agreement that would include turning five acres of the property over to the tribe.
The parcel of land, which will include a section of Burke Creek that the developer is to restore, was originally going to be sold to the U.S. Forest Service.
The other component to the EIS had to do with transportation impacts, which also have reportedly been addressed.
However, even though the cultural and transportation issues were the main sticking points for TRPA’s staff, much of the opposition revolves around other potential problems.
The League and both attorneys general from Nevada and California have contested that approving such a subdivision is a violation of TRPA’s own rules.
“We’re going to ask the governing board to not approve the project because it’s in conflict with TRPA’s water quality plan and its ordinance,” Siegel said. “We’re also going to ask them to set up a working group to hash out these problems so it doesn’t occur elsewhere.”
The problem with the subdivision, Siegel said, is primarily the new network of roads that will be built on undisturbed land.
Coverage, such as roads, can cheat the natural filtration process stormwater goes through in the soil. More sediment could be carried into the lake.
“Lake Tahoe is in big trouble. It’s losing more than a foot of clarity a year. We don’t have that much time to turn things around,” Siegel said. “To continue allowing projects like this to go through, it’s going to make it all that much harder. We’ll be unable to turn things around.”
Larry Hoffman, attorney for the developer, said TRPA has approved similar projects in the past without the League and the AGs opposition.
“Obviously we’re pleased with resolving the EIS issue. That is a significant step in the right direction,” Hoffman said. “We’re pleased with that, but we’re still uncertain why the League and the AGs, who long ago signed off on subdivisions like this, have picked this one to do battle with.”
Douglas County approved the project last year, and the board of commissioners have long supported it.
“It’s my firm belief an EIS should be prepared on projects that either have experts disagreeing on environmental issues or you know there is an environmental problem that is not mitigatable,” said Don Miner, a Douglas commissioner and the county’s representative on TRPA’s board. “The rest of the situations, if an environmental situation can be improved upon, an EIS isn’t necessary.
“It’s unfortunate the project was delayed a building season,” Miner added. “I’m unhappy the restoration of Burke Creek will be extended another year. That was our primary motivation – to get that done.”
What : TRPA meeting
When: Sept. 22, 9:30 a.m.
Where: North Tahoe Conference Center, 8318 North Lake Blvd., Kings Beach
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Want to help the forest heal from the Caldor Fire’s destruction? The Sugar Pine Foundation is organizing tree planting events where the massive blaze burned in the Amador Ranger District of the Eldorado National Forest.