By Adam Jensen
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — South Lake Tahoe officials accused the League to Save Lake Tahoe June 21 of putting out false information regarding a federal lawsuit the environmental group filed against the city the week before.
The League filed suit against the city in federal court in Sacramento on June 24. The litigation seeks to stop implementation of the city’s general plan, which will guide development in South Lake Tahoe for the next 20 years.
Council members approved the general plan May 17.
The city’s review of the plan did not address environmental damage that could be caused, nor did it suggest adequate measures to mitigate potential degradation, according to a Monday statement from the league.
In the statement the league said the city’s general plan “includes over 1,000 new high-density residences and over 100 acres of six-story buildings.”
City spokeswoman Nancy Kerry called the statement a “deliberate attempt to confuse the discussion.”
“The league’s actions once again demonstrate their willingness to mislead the public and now the courts in a way that redirects the public’s very limited resources defending legal complaints rather than spending resources on improving the infrastructure that is, in fact, contributing to lake clarity degradation,” Kerry said in a Monday statement.
Development of more than 900 housing units in South Lake Tahoe is subject to Tahoe Regional Planning Agency approval, and the reference to six-story buildings refers to a draft version of the general plan that was not approved, Kerry said.
League to Save Lake Tahoe executive director Rochelle Nason deferred comment June 24 to spokeswoman Amanda Royal. Royal said the League stands by its statement.
“We stick by our release. We stick by our facts,” Royal said, pointing to statements from the general plan’s draft environmental document posted on the league’s Website.
One of the documents, the scenic resources section, highlights a table that would allow building heights up to six stories in “Tourist Center” and “Town Center” areas around the “Y” at stateline, Ski Run Boulevard and several areas in the Bijou and Al Tahoe neighborhoods. A six-story building is assumed to be 75 feet tall in the draft plan.
The section was not in the general plan approved by the council in May, and the city has no intention of pushing for six-story buildings, Kerry said.
In the final environmental document, the table referenced by the league is revised “to limit maximum building height consistent with TRPA height standards except within the designated node for Tahoe Valley … where a maximum of 45 feet would be allowed.”
The city has shown the revision to league staff during previous conversations, Kerry said.
“The league is well aware and fully informed that the city’s General Plan does not contain provisions to build six-story buildings over 100 acres, yet they have knowingly released several statements to the contrary and those misleading statements remain on their website,” according to Monday’s statement form the city.
Breaching the regional plan
In the June 24 suit the league also contends the city illegally stepped in front of the TRPA’s regional plan when it approved its general plan. The environmental group also contends the city should have sought project approval from TRPA for the plan.
“From a planning perspective, the city is putting the cart before the horse, because it is prematurely trying to adopt a new general plan before there is a new regional plan,” Nason said in Tuesday’s statement. “This is a clear violation of the TRPA code of ordinances.”
The TRPA’s long delayed regional plan update is expected to be before the agency’s governing board by December 2012. If the general plan conflicts with the regional plan, TRPA’s rules will take precedence, according to the city.
City Attorney Patrick Enright declined to comment on the suit June 21, noting he has seen it on the league’s Website but has not been officially served.
He did say local jurisdictions have not been required to bring general plans to the governing board in the past.
TRPA spokesman Jeff Cowen agreed.
“Both the city’s plan and the Regional Plan Update are calling for substantial reductions in pavement, cleaner air through pedestrian-transit oriented development and many world-class environmental improvements through environmental redevelopment,” Cowen said in a statement. “The TRPA board does not take action to approve local plans or ordinances.”