TRPA plan lambasted by public
August 24, 2005
At least 150 people, a large proportion representing hundreds if not thousands of constituents, showed up at Stateline on Wednesday to voice their concerns on piers, buoys, boat stickers and a proposed motorboat ban on Emerald Bay listed in Shorezone Alternative 6.
Three hours into the hearing, the majority of speakers had vehemently criticized the proposed plan at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board meeting. One person threatened legal action, while those with neutral or positive comments could be counted with one hand.
Alternative 6 was released to the public on July 2, followed by what some have called a public outcry. The plan is one of six alternatives and is the result of 18 years of debate on how to regulate Tahoe’s lakeshore.
“Can it. Let’s work on Alternative 7,” said Tom Davis, former South Lake Tahoe mayor. He then offered to drink out of all five areas where the lake was sampled to test for pollution.
While many chose to criticize minute details of the plan, others took a larger perspective, denouncing the plan’s science, process, practicality and enforceability.
“The process on which you base policy needs to be scientifically sound,” said South Lake Tahoe city manager Dave Jinkens, who emphasized the value of peer-reviewed science.
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“Where there are disputes, the board needs a process to verify and have a peer-reviewed science that you can depend on.”
Lakefront property owners spoke spoke both for and against piers.
JD Benedetti, president of the Tahoe Lakefront Homeowners Association, spoke in favor of piers. Public use has the greatest impact on the lake, he said, and is currently “uncontrolled.” He threatened legal action if TRPA encroached on property rights.
“The TRPA risks serious exposure to significant challenge should it venture down this road,” Benedetti said. The plan was discriminatory of private property owners, he said repeatedly.
That came after comments by several homeowners, including lakefront owners, who opposed piers.
“It’s not their land, it’s public land, and some of it should be protected, said Dave Rousse, a lakefront owner who thought a $100,000 permit fee would not be enough to make up for what was lost. “You are selling that precious resource indefinitely in perpetuity, and I think that’s a mistake.”
Speakers bemoaned the creation of more bureaucracy, regulations and fees, alleging the agency stood to gain more than $25 million from the boat sticker program and permit fees on piers and buoys.
“I am not a wealthy man,” said John Phillips. “Yes, I am privileged, I do own a lakefront home. But I’d like to know where this mitigation fee comes from. I cannot afford it.”
Fees for buoy permits would be $5,000 for the first, and $7,000 for the second under Alternative 6.
Others wondered about the necessity of a boat sticker program, saying boat engines have been getting increasingly cleaner and calling it a logistical nightmare.
Many boating advocates lambasted a proposed motorboat ban in Emerald Bay. Implementing a 5 mph speed limit and no-wake zone would be more beneficial than a ban, they said. Mike Bradford, board president of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, spoke of future implications for the TRPA, saying it crippled the agency’s ability to justify positive change.
“Our confidence is shaken by recent studies on the purported science on which the regulations are based,” Bradford said.
“This acrimony is not the community’s choosing, it was brought to our doorstep,” he continued. “We seek a better approach to the science and the process.”
Board member John Upton said he had not seen so many people attend a Governing Board meeting since the ban on two-stroke motors in 1997.
Speakers at the public hearing also included Assemblyman Tim Leslie, South Lake Tahoe Mayor Kathay Lovell, and numerous leaders of boating and homeowners associations as well as environmental groups.
TRPA executive director John Singlaub explained to the board that staff will compile public comment and present it to the board in September. After that, staff will come up with a final environmental impact statement and specific ordinances, which it will present to the board in January or February. The public will have 30 days to comment on that and then the board will be asked to vote on the shorezone ordinance.