TRPA draft EIS Regional Plan update showdown begins

By Kathryn Reed

STATELINE – Sixty days. That’s how long people have to review and comment on the environmental documents associated with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Regional Plan update as well as the transportation update.

About an hour of Thursday’s Governing Board meeting was devoted to discussing how long the comment period should be on the environment impact statements. While some wanted the maximum 90-day period, the board voted on a 60-day limit with the idea the vote on the EIS will happen before the end of the year and there will be more time for public meetings. Board members Mara Bresnick and Ryan High, the alternate for Ross Miller, voted against the 60 days.

Those in the conservation community asked for the 90 days, visually demonstrating the task ahead for all who want to participate in the process by bringing to the podium the volumes of binders that contain close to 3,000 pages of information. All of the docs are on the TRPA’s website.

TRPA Governing Board member Claire Fortier of South Lake Tahoe listens to deliberations April 26. Photos/Kathryn Reed

Before the April 26 vote, board member Claire Fortier said, “The folks who want the delay are the same people who were at the Regional Plan committee meetings.”

Fortier, who is also the mayor of South Lake Tahoe, was one of the six members of the committee who came up with the proposed Regional Plan update.

Regional Plan draft EIS

Five alternatives are in the EIS, with alternative 3 the preferred alternative. TRPA staff describes alternative 2 as what the conservation community wants. Conservationists say that is not true.

“We provided a 256-page Conservation Alternative to the TRPA. That alternative was discussed with the staff over a number of months,” Laurel Ames, with the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, told Lake Tahoe News. “We were shocked to find our alternative eviscerated and allegedly replicated as current alternative No. 2. The EIS analysis of alternative No. 2 does not reflect our alternative.”

The “we” also includes the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Friends of the West Shore and other conservation groups.

Sydney Coatsworth with Ascent Environmental Inc., the firm that prepared the draft EIS, described the alternatives in basic terms as follows:

• Alternative 1 would keep things as they are – using the current Regional Plan that was adopted in 2007. This comes with 86 residential allocations, 874 residential bonus units, 383,579 square feet of commercial floor area, and 342 tourist accommodation units.

• Alternative 2 is described as low development with increased regulation. It calls for 2,600 residential allocations, 200,000 square feet of CFA, maximum coverage of 50 percent on high capability land in community plan areas. Existing height rules stay in place except in some high-density locations.

• Alternative 3 is called highly incentivized redevelopment. Coverage and development transfer ratios are based on sensitivity between areas, allows coverage transfer across the nine hydrological related areas, and has changes to density and height standards. There are three tiers for height, the maximum being 197 feet in the Stateline casino corridor. (That is the current height of Harveys and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. For the Stateline casino properties to get a permit to redevelop, they must conform to rules in the Regional Plan. If this alternative is adopted, then they would. Those casinos were built before there was a Regional Plan.) This alternative also has 2,600 residential allocations and 200,000 square feet of CFA. It exempts non-motorized trails from being categorized as coverage.

• Alternative 4 is labeled as reduced development with incentivized redevelopment. It comes with 4,000 residential allocations, 400,000 square feet of CFA, 200 TAUs, and 70 percent coverage on parcels in community plans.

• Alternative 5 has a similar rate of development and regulatory structure as the 1987 plan. It comes with 5,200 residential allocations, 600,000 square feet of CFA and 400 TAUs.

Fourteen environmental topics are analyzed in the EIS. Chapter 2 details the alternatives. The 14 are land use, transportation, air quality, green house gas-climate change, noise, geology-soils-coverage, hydrology-water quality, scenic resources, biological resources, recreation, population-employment-housing, public services-utilities, hazards-public safety, and cultural resources.

Chapter 3 focuses on the analysis. Two designations not often, if ever, found in an EIS are labeled as B for beneficial and SU for sufficient-unavoidable.

What people are saying

Several times during the past two days of TRPA board meetings it was stressed how the Regional Plan update and the EIS are drafts. Comments on the Regional Plan will be taken until the day the board votes on it in December. The EIS has 59 days left for people to comment.

TRPA Executive Director Joanne Marchetta repeatedly said the plan update would get on a four- to five-year cycle – no more of this every 20-year process – or 25, as is the case now. The idea is to be able apply adaptive management techniques to the plan – so changes can essentially be made on the fly to things not working instead of waiting years after that realization.

Seventeen people during the public comment period spoke about the draft EIS.

Dan Siegel with the California Attorney General's Office goes over his notes at the April 26 TRPA meeting.

First out of the gate was Dan Siegel, California deputy attorney general.

“I believe the draft has serious legal defects,” Siegel said. In particular he took issue with delegating authority to local jurisdictions, coverage rules, and the allowance of new development.

Ames, with the Sierra Club, spoke of the desire for better stormwater rules, in particular the need to use infiltration techniques instead of collection basins.

Jennifer Quashnick, who has worked for the Sierra Club, questioned why when so many people touted the economic benefits of the plan why there is no feasibility study associated with it to prove that point.

On the other side, advocating for the adoption of alternative 3, were attorney Lew Feldman, Carl Ribaudo of SMG Marketing, consultant Gary Midkiff, Richard Shaw of Design Workshop, Clint Purvance of Barton Health, Blake Riva of East-West Partners, Chuck Sharer of Edgewood Companies, Hilary Roverud with the city of South Lake Tahoe, B Gorman of Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, and Carol Chaplin of Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

Formation of the plan

To come up with the draft Regional plan the committee met 15 times, with unanimous agreement coming on 145 items.

Fourteen of the items that will need to be resolved between now and December are:

• Transfers of planning and permit review responsibility to local government

• Options for stormwater management implementation

• Annual release system for residential allocations, bonus units, and non-residential development allowances

• Transfer of coverage across hydrologically related area boundaries

• Tourist accommodation unit transfers

• Development and subdivision authorized in the recreation district

• Building height in the high density tourist district

• An eight-hour ozone threshold standard

• Level of service allowances when alternative transportation modes are available

• Distribution requirements of air quality impact fees

• Restrictions on biomass burning facilities within the basin

• Numeric restoration targets and trails for stream environmental zones

• Coverage or other permanent land disturbances in stream environmental zones

• Airport activities and nuisance abatement requirements

• Ridgeline and viewshed protection and scenic mitigation

• Maintaining and restoring the scenic qualities of the natural appearing landscape.










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Comments (9)
  1. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: April 28, 2012

    Convoluted process at best. Kae, I don’t see how you can sit through these meetings, but thanks for doing it!
    Take Care, Old Long Skiis

  2. Enthusiast says - Posted: April 28, 2012

    Thank you for the summary, Kae. I really liked to read all the facts in a couple of pages without too much commentary.
    It seems that a lot of work went into alternative 3 and I hope it gets adopted.

  3. Hangs Ups From Way Back says - Posted: April 29, 2012

    WHY EN?

    SAYS RIGHT THERE THERE’S NO Feasibility OTHER THAN THE MORE LESS SAME Advocates GROUP THAT WERE INVOLVED IN THE HOLE.Those guys made money regardless if the hole was finished or not, step right into another catch 22 for the major part the of population that live here.
    No one going to fool anyone, that not even the MAYOR OF THE MONTH, read Entire 3000 pages of technical info,understands it, when they have a hard time tying there shoes on the council.Check it out ,they wear slip ons!Just another carl Bs consulation fee meal ticket to explain how use Charmon.
    Research the bills Dan Siegel got pushed through for business in Californian ,read the complicated file you’ll have a better understanding of what going on.

    The regular residents that have to put up with bad infrastructure condition aren’t getting ahead of curb losing more business store fronts and needed repair and they want bring more traffic on to the worn out Californian side.The Nevada side has the luxury of doing their side because they got money ,where’s the money coming from to fix the prune pickers side?

    Jennifer Quashnick, who has worked for the Sierra Club, questioned why when so many people touted the economic benefits of the plan there is no feasibility study associated with it to prove that point.

  4. West Shore Local says - Posted: April 30, 2012

    Miss Quashnick made a valid point; why is there no actual economic feasibility study associated with the preferred alternative?

    You would think that the TRPA and all the local and state governments would learn from their past mistakes (a.k.a. the famous “hole-in-the-ground”).

    And another thing, I doubt that all members of the TRPA Governing Board will review and understand the 3000+ page Draft EIS. So, how can they realistically expect the public to be able to do that when they themselves cannot, or will not chose to read and comprehend the entire document. Instead they just rely on TRPA Staff highlights to form an opinion on the RPU.

    They are but puppets molded to the needs of the Staff (but then you should ask, who is behind the Staff?).

  5. John says - Posted: April 30, 2012

    Perform an economic feasibility study on what? There is no proposed PROJECT. Its just a plan. Tell ya what, give me $1 million and I will produce an economic feasibility study that proves anything you want it to prove. I have a ton of initials after my name and several masters degrees in finance and economics, so it will look great on paper.

  6. West Shore Local says - Posted: April 30, 2012

    John, you are being too narrow-minded and forgetting how things have been working in Tahoe: projects get approved and then either the “wish-full” financials don’t pan-out, or loans exchange hands to where the future of the project/redevelopment is up in the air (a.k.a. Boulder Bay). Also, the “plan” needs to actually help economic sustainability in the area. You are looking at this as if the “Piece-meal” approach is good for Tahoe business.

    Larger plans, such as regional and general plans, need to have some sort of accountability for what they are trying to do. What good is a plan if it is not economically, and/or environmentally feasible? It’s a good waste of time and tax payer resources, that’s what!

  7. John says - Posted: April 30, 2012

    West shore when I perform an economic analysis of a transaction there is a single truth: if you accept my assumptions you cannot question my conclusions. Now you want to perform an analysis on hypotheticals that nobody will accept and therefore disqualify alternative 3. So do you know more about economics than the developers of Boulder Bay?

  8. satori says - Posted: May 1, 2012

    Absent an actual vision (the so-called South Shore Vision Plan merely rehashes the last 15 years of “No-Go”), the RPU becomes a gaming cliche’: “betting on the come”.

    Perhaps this is why Joanne justifies shortening the “20, now 25” year process to more 5’s, so changes can be made ‘on the fly’, as Kae reports. That is being made necessary.

    As to Deputy Attorney Siegel, he is correct in questioning the delegation aspect, as the various ‘communities’ around the Lake have no clue as to how to become a “sustainable community” as heralded in the opening slide of their PP.

    Apparently the idea of SB 375, CA’s ‘Sustainable Communities Strategy’, has money associated with it, so of course we are going to strategize a way to ‘get money’ – – I’m sorry, become “sustainable communities” – – especially since the other piggy-bank money has dried up.

    There is a disturbing gap between RPU efforts and justification for what’s in it – as in, a very real train wreck after its’ presumed “approval”.

    The very fact that they have no particular vision on which to gauge success (what exactly does that look like ?) means that there is really nothing to aspire to, let alone realize.