Kingsbury condo complex axed by commissioners

Safety concerns were the main reason plans for Sierra Sunrise, a 40-unit residential complex in the Kingsbury district of South Lake Tahoe were squelched by the Douglas County Board of Commissioners on Thursday.

The vote was unanimous.

"I've fought fires up there and the fire danger is extreme in that area. You have one entrance," said Commission Chairman Doug Johnson. "Why are we even discussing something this dangerous, after what we just saw at Lake Tahoe this summer."

Johnson was referring to the Angora fire, which destroyed about 3,100 acres of forest land, taking with it 254 single-family homes in South Lake Tahoe from June 24 to July 3, according to a final report from federal officials.

"I like the project and what it could do for Douglas County, but it's in the wrong place," said Commissioner Kelly Kite.

Located at the corner of Jack Court and Tramway Drive, this multi-family development is surrounded by forest and range and single-family homes.

Architect Don Clark said the project would be tucked between two ridges. Impact on the surrounding forest land would be minimized by the height of the building, rather than spreading the development over a much of the parcel's 16.7 acres.

Developers Rancho Pacific Inc. asked for three variances for the project, including raising the maximum building height from 35 to 100 feet, the development of off-street trails rather than conventional sidewalks and elimination of the required recreational vehicle parking stalls.

The majority of residents who spoke at the meeting opposed the project, but a few, like Phil Humphreys, supported it.

"I have walked the property and the plan I'm seeing now allays my concerns from an esthetic standpoint," he said. "The ideas, like underground parking and paved trails, worked wonders in British Columbia where I'm from. This type of design made that area a friendly, family-oriented development."

Many opposed the height of the project, including neighbor Ray Sidney.

"As a developer and an environmentalist, what disturbs me is the height variance," he said. "If you grant this, everyone will ask for the same thing."

Commissioner David Brady asked if any consideration had been given to splitting the units and lowering the height.

"There has been some dialogue, but we weren't sure how to do it," Clark said. "We were trying to minimize site disturbance."

In other business:

n County officials are trying to hold the line by cutting department budgets, but revenues have dropped while expenditures continue to climb, said Douglas County Comptroller Claudette Springmeyer.

General fund revenues are only slightly lower when compared to last year, just one indicator of the county's fiscal health.

"We're not gaining, but everyone is watching expenditures across the board," she said.

Building permits and related revenues have decreased significantly with a drop in activity, from 418 single-family home permits in 2006 to 163 in 2007.

Employees are the most expensive commodity in Douglas County, and a 60-day hold has been put on most positions, to save money. Thirty-nine full-time and one part-time position remain unfilled.

n Water rate increases for both the Zephyr Water Utility District and Cave Rock Water System were put on hold, pending completion of their capital improvement plans. Both will be reviewed by commissioners in about six months.


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