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TRPA workload piles up

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

A record number of project applications submitted to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency in March and April will force the agency to contract out some of its workload.

“It may be a record — it’s way above normal,” said Executive Director Juan Palma, of the application influx. “The economy may be slowing down in the rest of the country, but it’s not slowing here in Tahoe.”

In September, TRPA staff had to go into what Palma called “incident command” mode to process a backlog of permit applications. To keep a similar scenario from happening again, Palma plans to contract out some of the less complicated applications and recruit staff experienced in project review to help get the work done.

Overall, the number of applications is up 41.7 percent in 2002. Two vacancies in the Project Review Division are compounding the problem. At full staff, 10 people are assigned to project review, said Lyn Barnett, division chief.

Palma announced the news in front of the TRPA Governing Board on Wednesday at Kings Beach. He said it’s a problem not likely to go away.

“We’ve got to address this in the long term,” Palma said. “If this is the demand, we simply do not have all the employees we need to have at project review.”

Drake DeLanoy, a board member appointed by the governor of Nevada, asked Palma what sort of applications would be farmed out.

“I would say the more complex EAs (environmental analyses) and EISs (environmental impact statements) we’ll keep at the TRPA,” Palma said. “But many other things we do should be done by outside attorneys and others.”

Jerome Waldie, appointed to the board by the California Senate Rules Committee, said part of the backlog is created by projects taking too long to come before the board. He cited a pier application scheduled to go before the board Wednesday. It was rescheduled at the last minute because TRPA staff received new information, something that had happened before on the same application.

“We never dispose of some of these things and they’re on the calendar forever,” Waldie said.


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