Backroom dealings protect VHRs in Lake Tahoe

Vacation home rentals are a multi-million-dollar business. Banning or even limiting them will cause a significant impact to influential people, powerful groups, and Lake Tahoe tax revenue. I expected some questionable actions. However, I am shocked by the backroom dealings that have taken place to protect VHRs.

An assistant district attorney, without any legal authority, nullifies motion approved by BOCC that would have eliminated most VHRs in Lake Tahoe.

On April 1, 2021, the BOCC approved a motion to prohibit VHRs in neighborhoods whose bylaws, deed restrictions or CC&Rs prohibited commercial activity.

The BOCC directed staff to include this language in the final amendment of the VHR Ordinance which was to be approved by the Board at its next meeting.

County staff is legally tasked with preparing the amended ordinance with the specific language and effect the BOCC adopted. The assistant District Attorney has no legal authority to change it.

Many neighborhoods in the Tahoe Basin have legal documents prohibiting commercial activity. This motion would have banned VHRs in those locations.

However, county staff, at the direction of the assistant District Attorney, changed the words in the motion from prohibiting “commercial activity” to prohibiting the “existence of VHRs.”

The change eliminated the purpose, intent, and effect of the motion, basically rending it useless. None of the legal documents from these neighborhoods mentioned VHRs because they were not in existence at the time these documents were executed.

Despite it being my motion, I did not learn of the change until two days before the BOCC meeting. When I objected, staff admitted they changed the language without BOCC permission. The language in the original motion was read into the record but the unauthorized changed language remained in the written documents.

This backroom dealing led Chairman Gardner to switch his vote; thereby protecting the majority of VHRs in the Tahoe Basin.

Because of erroneous information provided to BOCC, the VHR Advisory Board changed from a majority of non-permit holders to a majority of permit holders!

When the BOCC created the Advisory Board, it required a majority of the Board to be non-permit holders. This was important to me because I believe the safe, peaceful, and quite enjoyment of one’s residence is paramount and non-permit holders would better protect this interest.

Shortly after the Ordinance was amended a handful of permit holders sued the county. A hearing for a temporary restraining order took place. After the hearing, the county manager and assistant district attorney advised the BOCC that the judge determined it was unfair to have a majority of non-permit holders on the Advisory Board. The BOCC was told that a compromise had been reached where the Advisory Board would consist of two permit holders and two non-permit holders in Lake Tahoe and one resident from the Carson Valley.

As a result, one nonpermit holder was removed from the Advisory Board and replaced with a Carson Valley resident who held a VHR permit in Glenbrook.

Not surprisingly, the Advisory Board consisting of a majority of VHR permit holders did not vote to ban or eliminate VHRs in any part of the Tahoe Basin.

I recently learned that the federal judge did not rule as we were advised. In fact, he ruled a majority of the Board could be non-permitholders. The order stated:

“It is further ordered that the majority of the board shall be comprised of VHR Tier 1 permitholders and/or non-permitholders.”

Agenda item banning VHRs in certain areas of Lake Tahoe was improperly kept off agenda until anti-VHR commissioner left the Board.

In September of 2022, I asked Chairman Gardner to place an item on the agenda banning VHRs in certain areas of Lake Tahoe before Commissioner Engles left the board. Commissioner Engles had publicly declared his displeasure with VHRs. Chairman Gardner promised me he would.

Section IX of the Norms and Procedures provided, “Any commissioner…can place an item on the agenda by contacting the county manager.” So, I emailed the county manager and asked to have my item placed on the agenda.

After I sent this email, Chairman Gardner notified me that he changed his mind and refused to put my item on the agenda until after Commissioner Engles left the Board. On four different occasions he provided four different reasons, none of which have any validity.

The reason I fought so hard for more transparency is that misconduct will never stop unless the public is aware of what is transpiring and the public demands it stop. It is up to you to decide if it will continue.

Danny Tarkanian is a Douglas County commissioner.


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