A major milestone for Lake Tahoe’s restoration and environmental redevelopment was reached Wednesday with the unanimous adoption by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board of the Douglas County South Shore Area Plan, the first local government area plan to be enacted under the 2012 Lake Tahoe Regional Plan.
The South Shore Area Plans sets goals for Douglas County’s share of Lake Tahoe’s environmental protection and restoration and opens the way for the mostly-rural, Nevada-side jurisdiction, to improve walkability and bikeablity while improving the aesthetic character of the county’s town centers.
Along with increased responsibility for implementing environmental policies, the area plan delegates more permitting authority for small and mid-size projects to the county while maintaining TRPA’s permitting authority for larger projects, among other safeguards, the agency said in a news release.
TRPA board chair and Carson City appointee Shelly Aldean hailed the approval as an important next step for local governments that are investing millions in restoration projects and are on the front line of pollutant reduction at the pristine alpine lake.
“This board and agency have accomplished many great things for Lake Tahoe and approving this area plan is the next step to securing a positive future for the basin,” Aldean said. “The area planning framework is not a novel concept and is fully supported by the bi-state compact that was recently renewed by the two states.”
The framework was adopted by the TRPA board in December 2012, as part of the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan update to reduce a layer in Lake Tahoe’s permit process and refocus TRPA on regional issues rather than day-to-day permitting of small projects.
A more efficient permit process will encourage environmental redevelopment and increase private investment in upgrades to stormwater systems and transportation and scenic improvements that are needed to meet regional standards, according to TRPA.
Douglas County Manager Steve Mokrohisky said the tight-knit Tahoe community recognized that maintaining the status quo at Lake Tahoe and blocking environmental upgrades with duplicative regulations is unacceptable.
“Douglas County has a strong record of environmental stewardship and we are proud of our leadership role as the first local jurisdiction to have an approved area plan,” Mokrohisky said. “Our community is primed to invest in redeveloping the built environment to improve the natural environment.”
The adopted area plan meets or exceeds regional standards for environmental protection and improvement, which is required of this and all future area plans, TRPA said. The plans must also be recertified annually to ensure it continues to meet the agency’s standards.
Although the Douglas County portion of the basin is sparsely populated, it is home to the largest concentration of tourist accommodations in the Tahoe Basin—the four casino properties on the south state line. Among the safeguards built into the framework is the requirement that TRPA continue to review all projects in that area, as well as all large-scale projects and projects in sensitive areas such as the lake shoreline.
Close on the heels of Douglas County’s plan are area plans coming forward from four other local governments throughout the region. All plans will become part of the regional plan while being responsive to the unique circumstances of diverse communities around the Lake, the TRPA said.