TRPA letting control trickle to local officials
Keeping a promise made during the 2011 Nevada Legislature, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has taken the first step toward giving local governments in the basin control over permitting and other rules.
“TRPA’s goal is to operate more on a regional scale where we can be most effective at protecting the Lake Tahoe environment and to shift some level of permit review responsibilities to local governments,” said Executive Director Joanne Marchetta.
“We’re hopeful that, by clarifying the rules of the road for building projects at Tahoe, it will encourage more upgrades to existing homes and businesses and revitalize older developments said TRPA’s Jeff Cowen.
The agency’s tough permitting standards have been a sore point with residents for decades because every project basically requires a majority of both the Nevada and California members of the governing board to move forward. Nevada Sens. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, and James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, charged that California members have blocked nearly every proposed development in the basin.
Basin residents testified during hearings on Lee’s bill to pull Nevada out of the bistate compact that TRPA has even prevented health-safety projects on private property such as removing pine needles for fire protection.
The agency was formed in the 1960s to create uniform minimum standards for preserving Lake Tahoe’s environment.
Marchetta told lawmakers during the Legislature, plans were to return control over much of the construction, repair and upgrade permitting to local governments. However, she said large-scale projects still may come under the TRPA’s authority.
Along with the endorsement of the concept this past week, the governing board adopted an updated code book intended to be clearer and more user-friendly in spelling out Tahoe Basin regulations. Cowen said the new book is more than a pound lighter than the existing code. It takes effect in March after the public has a chance to review the changes.
“This week’s actions of the board are part of the new approach TRPA is taking to achieve its mission,” Marchetta said. “We’re focusing on regional environmental gain while promoting sustainable redevelopment in town centers and making the regulatory process more fair and consistent.”
Former state senator Coe Swobe of Reno testified during the 2011 hearings on Lee’s bill that regional control was the intention behind the TRPA when he and others created the agency. He said, however, “a lot of times, the counties didn’t have guts enough to do something so they pushed it back on the TRPA.” He said returning control over residential permitting to the local governments in the basin is “a great idea.”
Marchetta told lawmakers she supports local control because times have changed.
She said she has been working for her two years as director on a strategy “that redefines the intent of the agency from lake police to regional planner.”
Marchetta said she intends to focus the agency on that effort and issues including reducing fine sediment runoff.
“We can reclaim the famed clarity,” she said. “We can reduce the 20 percent unemployment not by building but by rebuilding.”
Lee’s bill threatening to pull Nevada out of TRPA was passed by lawmakers and signed into law. Marchetta said lawmakers and governors from both states make TRPA work to protect the lake and work for the parties who live there.
Lee made it clear his intent is to get the attention of California and environmental groups who have long opposed any projects at Tahoe and filed dozens of lawsuits to block progress.
“My goal is to see that we keep a compact of sorts,” he said.