TRPA scenic impact standards defended

A scenic review system proposed for homes along the shore of Lake Tahoe will tilt the environment at the basin back in favor of natural landscape and not decrease property values, the Nevada secretary of state said Monday.

Dean Heller, who also serves as chairman of the Governing Board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the organization proposing the new system, said property values will most likely be determined by supply and demand and the new scenic system will promote beauty and enhance values. Heller shared his comments at a press conference in Carson City.

But some believe otherwise.

"Prove it. You can say anything you want, give me some examples," said Bob Wheeler, a real estate broker at Incline who weeks ago founded the Committee for Reasonable Regulation of Lake Tahoe. "Give me a scientific report on scenic beauty that stands up to a peer review. They can't provide that. Give me an economic impact report from the TRPA demonstrating what Dean Heller has said."

Wheeler said a home's view of the lake does influence how much a property is worth. And, he said, this is only the beginning; the agency's scenic policies will affect everyone in the basin.

"We want to inform owners of all properties," Wheeler said. "These guys are just getting their foot in the door. They're attempting to strip us of our property rights. No one can tell us what color to paint our house."

The review system, which will be addressed Aug. 28 when the Governing Board meets at the Horizon Casino Resort, would replace a verbal evaluation with a numeric system that calculates the contrast a structure would create with the natural environment.

If owners promise: to use building materials that blend with the landscape, maintain as much screening (trees and native vegetation) as possible, give the structure texture, paint it with a dark color and reduce the amount of windows it has facing the lake -- the agency will permit a larger amount of the structure to face the lake.

If a project calls for white paint, no texture and shiny metal roof, the agency would likely not allow any part of the structure to face the lake.

Heller, who wore a blue denim TRPA shirt as he held the press conference in his office at the state Capitol, said it is the agency's job as directed by its Compact, legislation that created the agency in 1968, to make sure building is balanced with the natural landscape.

"People are building bigger homes closer to the lake," Heller said. "Their architecture is much bolder and they're tearing trees down to get a better view."

He said the the scenic system in use today is failing because it involves "horse trading," which consumes too much of TRPA staff time.

"The goal of the new regulations is to make it more black and white," he said. "This is what you can and cannot have. In my opinion, it would make it easier for the TRPA to make a decision right away."

Juan Palma, TRPA executive director, said the system in use sometimes results in hundreds of hours of staff time going to one project proposal.

"That's not fair," Palma said. "Grandma and grandpa who want to add a deck to their home have to get in line and they don't have consultants and lawyers. To the citizens it looks like it's arbitrary and capricious."

Sara Ellis, spokeswoman for Sierra Nevada Board of Realtors, said she agrees that protecting air and water quality at the basin has heightened property values, but she is against the system because enough work hasn't gone into it.

"It's created on totally subjective numbers," Ellis said. "It took them six months to show us what a project 100 percent in compliance would look like. Dean Heller has every right to have an opinion but so does the homeowner. The system as it is today is for people on a boat 300 feet from shore."

The Committee for Reasonable Regulation of Lake Tahoe is planning a public meeting on the scenic review system tonight from 7 to 9 at Homewood's North Ski Lodge. A meeting on the system is also set in Incline Village on Aug. 27 in the Chateau at the Incline Village Championship Golf Course.

Wheeler said there may be a meeting Monday at South Shore but the location has not been determined.

-- Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment