TRPA unanimously adopts compromise shorezone scenic rules
KINGS BEACH — Controversial rules limiting the scenic impact of homes on the shores of Lake Tahoe were adopted on Wednesday by a unanimous vote of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Governing Board.
The vote came at the end of a grueling, daylong meeting devoted to little else but the scenic issues, and after months of sometimes heated public discussion.
In comments after the meeting, TRPA Executive Director Juan Palma said he was happy with the vote.
“I feel a lot of emotion because everybody put a lot of work into this,” Palma said. “At the end of the day, Lake Tahoe is the winner.”
TRPA has been trying to adopt the rules after acknowledging in July that scenic impacts around the lake have been continually degrading for over two decades, since baseline scenic conditions were adopted.
According to Palma, the compromise regulations adopted Wednesday will probably take 20 years to bring the lakeshore into compliance with target scenic conditions.
Wednesday’s action on the scenic rules was a reversal of the board’s decision last month to table the matter until January.
The board’s action on the scenic rules survived an attempt to remove the matter from the agenda, and then later opposition to considering the matter at all. In each case, board members wanting to delay the action until January lost by a single vote.
The turning point for the split board came when an amendment by Governing Board member Jim Galloway favoring larger shorezone homes was adopted.
Galloway, who is also a Washoe County commissioner, had argued during the past several months that large homes favored by some wealthy Tahoe residents are not necessarily bad for the lake.
“Politics is the art of the possible,” said Galloway in later comments. “Getting these rules on truly firm ground was clearly not possible right now, so I compromised. Now, the discussion should no longer be about class warfare.”
Additional amendments by the California Governor’s appointee, Ron Slaven, increased the amount of scenic muting homeowners must undertake in exchange for more home-front visibility if their lots exceed 100 feet of lake frontage.
Slaven said his measures were aimed at accelerating the rate of scenic restoration on the lakeshore.
The January delay was intended to give a select group of homeowners, real estate professionals, and environmentalists a chance to reach a compromise in efforts that began last July.
But these negotiations collapsed after one of the parties, the Committee for Reasonable Regulation of Lake Tahoe, filed a lawsuit to preserve its legal right to challenge the agency’s 2001 Threshold Evaluation, which underlies the proposed scenic rules.
Outgoing Board chairman Dean Heller, who was absent during the October board meeting, said he considered the lawsuit an attack on TRPA’s authority to improve the Tahoe Basin environment, and asked that the matter be reconsidered at Wednesday’s meeting after reading the suit.
No representatives of the committee challenging TRPA gave public comments during the meeting, but their lead attorney, Ronald Zumbrun, answered board questions about the suit. Zumbrun said the suit has not been served.
The chairmanship for next year’s governing board will go to El Dorado County Supervisor Dave Solaro, who was the vice chair. The vice chair will be Wayne Percock of the Nevada Department of Conservation.
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