Scenic issue set for Wednesday

A more restrictive version of the contentious scenic ordinances proposed for Lake Tahoe's shore zone could face a final vote Wednesday if the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's Governing Board allows it.

The vote would be a reversal of the board's October decision to table the matter until January, a decision board chairman and Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller said was an error in judgment made during his absence.

"The board stubbed its toe in October," Heller said in comments last week on why he called for reconsideration of the matter.

The January delay was intended to give a select group of homeowners, real estate professionals and environmentalists a chance to reach a compromise in efforts that began in July.

But those negotiations collapsed after one of the parties, the Committee for Reasonable Regulation of Lake Tahoe, filed a lawsuit to preserve its legal right to challenge the agency's 2001 Threshold Evaluation, which underlies the proposed scenic regulations.

TRPA executive director Juan Palma said he took the filing as a sign of bad faith because the committee could have asked for further filing deadline extensions, but did not. Palma also cited 70 issues he said were unsolvable within the allotted time frame, and he sided with Heller's decision to bring the matter back.

According to the agency's chief counsel, John Marshall, the scenic rules before the board Wednesday are based on a review by TRPA's "scenic mentors" of the less restrictive version presented Oct. 29 at the negotiating group's final meeting.

Marshall said the main feature of the newly revised rules includes a return to tying compliance level to a project's cost, rather than to net modified visible lake side facade. Otherwise, Marshall said, a total rebuild with the same visible square footage as the razed home would not have to comply.

Another major change is the removal of caps on the amount of window lake views that could be blocked by scenic rule compliance triggered by any single project.

Marshall said that, in general, homeowners could minimize view blockage by using scenic breaks on facade portions where there are no windows.

Included on the board meeting agenda is an analysis by Johnson-Perkins and Assoc. of the proposed scenic rules' impact on Tahoe Basin property values. The report states that, while those intending new development and major reconstruction will likely suffer a "significant decline in the value" of homes because of view reduction, such projects represent a small fraction of what is possible.

The report also states proposed rules would have little effect on property tax levels in the Tahoe Basin because California statutes cap property taxes far below market levels, and Nevada statutes permit an annual 1.5 percent property value depreciation.


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