Under construction | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Under construction

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / The future of new construction at Tahoe is uncertain after a regional plan expires in six months.

With six months to go before Tahoe’s regional plan expires, there continues to be disagreement on how a transitional system for handing out building rights will work.

Tahoe’s planning agency is looking to come up with the simplest system with the fewest code changes, said spokeswoman Julie Regan. This will minimize environmental review or lawsuits.

By all accounts, there will likely be a de facto moratorium on building here if an interim system is not approved by the end of the year.

John Friedrich with the League to Save Lake Tahoe urged an advisory board to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency on Wednesday not to approve certain suggested changes to the present system.

“The existing allocations have been out of balance with maintaining our sensitive ecosystem,” Friedrich said. “Going beyond that to changes in definition and changes in the code would certainly be met with opposition from the League and the environmental community.”

Placer County management analyst Jennifer Merchant and landowner Alex Mourelatos urged the board to remove a requirement for allocations for moderate income houses and ease the way for demonstration projects.

The board rejected this in a close vote at the urging of Friedrich, who believes it would amount to more overall development and remove already struggling incentives for affordable housing.

Moderate income is a notch pricier than affordable housing.

Moderate income is defined by the Housing and Urban Development Department as 80 percent to 120 percent of the median income of the area. Affordable housing is 80 percent of the median, while low income is between 50 and 70 percent of the median income.

Agency staff recommended 12 changes to the agency’s code Wednesday, which passed by one vote. Four members voted no, and two abstained.

Merchant and Friedrich also recommended a cushion plan of three years instead of two, in case the regional plan is not approved in 2008.

The agency has identified 540 unused allocations it can use until a new regional plan is approved. It usually allots between 200 and 300 building rights a year, but would have to lower that to around 180 to stretch out the existing 540 over three years.

The only part of TRPA’s code that needs a transitional plan is the allocation system. Without such a plan, the agency would have to perform environmental analysis before allowing building to continue in the basin.

“If we are going to have to go to an EIS on this, this will not be seamless,” Joanne Marchetta, lead lawyer for the agency, told the Advisory Planning Commission.

“We have to work within the environmental analysis of the ’80s to make this interim system work,” Regan said later.

To limit development in the Lake Tahoe Basin, land owners must obtain a building allocation to develop their property. The allocation is not a building permit, it’s a time slot to build. In the city of South Lake Tahoe, the wait for an allocation is 10 years.

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