A two-phase apartment-to-condominium conversion was approved by planning board commissioners at Tuesday’s public meeting.
Apartment owner Kara Thiel of Feldman McLaughlin and Thiel, LLP, applied for a subdivision map to begin converting its Lake Vista apartments to condominiums for first-time homebuyers.
Lewis Feldman represented Thiel at the meeting.
He said that the condominiums would be for sale starting at $200,000.
Commissioner Don Miner said he applauded the applicant for trying to set up affordable housing in Stateline.
“I’ve lived there for 35 years and have observed TRPA (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) give limited approval to affordable housing,” he said. “It’s because neighbors don’t want it next to them so they complain to TRPA.”
Miner said that he remembers “at least five” affordable housing requests coming before the board during his time on the commission and being denied.
“This is the first opportunity for an applicant to make some money and they’ve had to put up with a lot to do it,” he said.
Current apartment tenants of the Lake Vista Apartments opposed the owner’s request during public comment.
Tenant John Durst said that if the commissioners approved the request he and other disabled or disabled and elderly tenants would be displaced.
“This area is uniquely well suited to affordable housing,” he said. “They’ve already torn down a good chunk of (rental) housing.”
Disabled tenants like himself rely on their apartment complex’s proximity to their places of employment like the casinos, he said.
“I’m a blogger and I am able to cover stories on foot from where I live,” he said.
Commissioner Kevin Servatius asked Feldman about the “human side.”
“Will the people currently living in the facility be able to stay?”
“We have 10 or 11 current renters that will be allowed to continue to rent,” he said. “No one will be displaced.”
He said that there will be two phases to the conversion.
Lake Vista I has about 30 units and will be the first to be converted.
Tenants can live in Lake Vista II where the conversion will not place until 2017 at the earliest, Feldman said.
“People can remain under their current lease,” he said.
In other planning commission news, Smith’s Food and Drug’s request to raise the height of its store sign to add a fuel center sign was approved unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting.
Smith’s owners agreed to forego additional signage on Waterloo Lane, to decrease sign clutter along Highway 395, if they could increase their sign located between Taco Bell and Jack in the Box by 22 inches.
Representative Brandon McDougal said they were not increasing the sign panels, just the “pitched roof element.”
Commissioner Pross said that she would move to approve the request since Smith’s offered to keep signage off adjacent streets.
“I appreciate that they don’t want to put a sign on Waterloo,” she said. “There is already so much signage along 395.”
A special use permit for the construction of a new 80-foot steel monopole and an equipment shelter for Epic and Verizon Wireless was approved by planning commissioners.
Dirk Goering, of the planning division staff, said that a variance was recommended because an existing pole for cellular antennae did not have the structural integrity to hold additional equipment.
He said the associated equipment shelter also needed a variance to build it closer to the tower than allowed in Douglas County’s development code because the site lacked the space to build them farther apart.
The old pole, which is owned and operated by Sprint, is made out of wood.
Commissioner Don Miner asked if there was a plan for the wooden tower to be removed before a new tower was constructed.
Epic Wireless representative Andrew Lesa said there were no plans at this time.
Miner said his concern was that the site would become cluttered with towers.
“The new pole is structurally sound and able to have both companies use the same pole,” he said. “But we haven’t researched how colocation would affect use.”
Planning division staff said that the challenge with including antennae and equipment from two different providers would be interference.
“We’ve found if equipment is extremely close to one another or on the same elevation plane that interference can occur,” he said.
Lesa said that colocation of equipment from different wireless companies was not uncommon, and that Verizon could share space on its monopole with other companies like AT&T and T-Mobile in the future.