Court overturns Tahoe development approval
October 13, 2012
STATELINE (AP) — A federal appeals court has sided with a conservation group in its appeal of regulators’ approval of a major residential development at Lake Tahoe.The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Thursday in favor of the League to Save Lake Tahoe in its legal fight against the 50-unit, 18-acre Sierra Colina Village project on the lake’s south shore.The league sued the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency last year, saying additional land coverage at the Stateline site allowed by the bi-state agency could harm Tahoe’s fragile environment.The league maintains the additional coverage would allow sediment and pollutants to make their way into Tahoe, and worsen the lake’s clarity. The planning agency granted developers additional land coverage for the project after determining an access road would see heavy use by the public as a bike path. The league argued the road would primarily serve residents of the subdivision.“We are gratified that the court has endorsed existing protections on road building and removed the possibility of a precedent-setting relaxation of those protections,” Darcie Goodman-Collins, the league’s executive director, said in a statement.“We look forward to evolving a stronger working relationship with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and with area developers so that in the future we may address concerns and resolve differences during the permitting phase,” she added.Steve Kenninger, co-owner of Sierra Colina LLC, criticized the appeals court’s ruling.“The court’s opinion is an abuse of discretion of the highest order, and a complete disregard of the court’s authority and obligations under applicable law,” he said.The appeals court’s ruling sends the case back to U.S. District Judge Robert Jones and to the planning agency, said agency spokeswoman Kristi Boosman. The agency will seek to add evidence to the record to show the road primarily serves the public, Boosman said, adding it’s expected to consider the issue early next year.“We are evaluating the implications” of the ruling, Boosman said.Jones dismissed the case last year after determining the agency acted appropriately in approving the project.