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Concerns about casino redevelopment linger from conservation community

Matthew Renda
Nevada Appeal News Service

CRYSTAL BAY – Environmental watchdog groups in Lake Tahoe are expressing concerns about the final report on the environmental impact of the proposed Tahoe Biltmore redevelopment project.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Boulder Bay project – a proposed 300-room hotel with 10,000-square-foot casino, 59 whole-ownership units, spa and other amenities – incorporates suggestions, revisions and critiques from local governing agencies, the public and environmental organizations.

Carl Young, program director for the League to Save Lake Tahoe, said Thursday that while the organization has not had sufficient time to fully analyze the document, the impact to traffic levels as a result of the project remains a salient concern.

“If there was not substantive changes to the traffic analysis put forth in the document, the league will still have issues with this project,” Young said.

“We have concerns that this project will even be unable to maintain the VMT (vehicle miles traveled) baseline, let alone accomplish a reduction.”

Young said traffic congestion could undermine the resort’s potential attraction to tourists.

“Tourists don’t come to Tahoe to languish in traffic jams,” he said. “They come here to escape them.”

Ann Nichols, president of the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, said the lack of sidewalks, the height of the project, potential construction noise and impacts on nearby Speedboat beach were not properly addressed in the FEIS.

“We had really hoped the developer would have come up with substantive responses, but it is more of the same old justifications,” she said.

Boulder Bay Project Manager Brian Helm said project developers have made a concerted effort to eliminate strip development and provide a more pedestrian-friendly project.

He also said there is no height threshold in the TRPA code, but a scenic one, and developers have improved the scenic elements of the site by agreeing to move the buildings back from the road as well as eliminating visible parking lots by placing them in garages beneath the main building.

Dennis Oliver, spokesman for TRPA, said these discussions and points of contention brought about by the conservation community will ultimately serve the greater good.

“The more robust public involvement we can get for the project, the better the decision the entire basin will end up with,” he said.

The FEIS analysis was paid for by Boulder Bay, managed by the TRPA and prepared by Hauge Bruek Associates.

The document will go before TRPA’s advisory planning council on Oct. 13 in Stateline, where planners will recommend whether or not the governing board should approve or not approve it. The governing board could vote on the document at its Oct. 28 meeting in Kings Beach.