When is a home too big for its neighborhood?
August 28, 2008
How the construction of big homes on relatively small lots should be regulated was the focus of more than three hours of discussion by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Governing Board last week.
Although the TRPA indirectly controls the size of homes through land-coverage limitations and scenic requirements, more direct forms of regulation are possible.
The board did not approve new regulations Thursday but directed staff to include discussion of new guidelines in the regional plan update, scheduled for possible approval in October 2009.
Much of the focus at the meeting was on a phrase in 71 of about 175 TRPA plan area statements regulating property projects. The phrase requires a project “to maintain the existing character of the neighborhood” before approval and attracted interest during discussions about a project in Tahoma.
In July, the Governing Board denied a permit for the construction of a 3,886-square-foot home on a one-third acre shorefront lot on Powderhorn Lane in Tahoma.
The house would have had a ratio of square footage to lot area of 0.27, project designer Scott Gillespie said. Typically, that ratio is about 0.25 in El Dorado County and 0.28 in Tahoma, he said.
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But those living near the proposed project claimed the large home would ruin the character of the lakeside neighborhood. Enough board members agreed with them to reject the project.
On July 30, board member Shelly Aldean filed a request to reconsider the denial of the project’s permit, saying she didn’t want to penalize the applicant, Sherman Homes, for “possible vagueness in our own code.”
“Our past practices have established a precedent that, in my opinion, we must honor until the code is amended through an open public process,” Aldean wrote in her request. The board approved the request and will reconsider the Powderhorn project.
But just how widespread a problem there is regarding large homes built on relatively small lots remains a point of contention with some board members.
“We’re trying to reinvent the wheel for one little situation,” said board member Larry Sevison.
Board member Steven Merrill disagreed, saying the problem is more widespread than Sevison thinks.
“It’s not, in my mind, about one incident,” said Merrill, adding the discussion was necessary because of the “grossly disproportionate” homes popping up in neighborhoods around the lake.