At the Lake: Activists say North Bowl meeting was illegal |

At the Lake: Activists say North Bowl meeting was illegal

Provided by the Tahoe Daily Tribune

With the approval of a master plan amendment by the basin’s planning agency already challenged by some of its board members, environmental groups added fuel to the fire Thursday by alleging the vote took place during an illegally held meeting.

A joint statement issued by the Sierra Nevada Alliance, Sierra Club and League to Save Lake Tahoe claimed that by allowing Governing Board members to participate via conference call without proper public notification and access, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency was in violation of California’s public meeting law, known as the Brown Act.

“The Brown Act mandates that board members can only participate in a public hearing from a remote location if they are using teleconference facilities at a location where the public can attend,” according to the statement. “That location must be publicly noticed two weeks ahead of the hearing.”

Officials at the TRPA were unaware of the groups’ concerns until recently, but remained confident in the validity of the board’s decision.

“TRPA just learned today (Thursday) of the concerns of the conservation community related to last month’s Governing Board meeting and we plan to research their allegations,” said John Singlaub, executive director of the TRPA, via e-mail. “We’ve used teleconferencing equipment in the past with no issues or concerns raised, and we don’t anticipate any meeting law irregularities in this instance.”

The environmental groups’ statement expresses further doubt about the validity of the Feb. 28 meeting’s outcome by saying that one of the three board members participating by phone, Jerry Waldie, was unexpectedly cut off and unable to participate in the debate surrounding the master plan amendment.

Waldie was one of three members who issued a request on March 7 for the Governing Board to reconsider its decision regarding the approval of alternative 4 in the Heavenly master plan amendment.

The alternative includes the construction of a high-speed quad bisecting a stand of large red fir trees in Heavenly’s North Bowl, considered old growth by environmental groups in the basin.

While the reconsideration request did not call the meeting’s legitimacy into question, concerns similar to those expressed in the environmental groups’ statement arose.

The lack of full board participation in the decision and difficulties experienced by board members attending the meeting by phone were cited in the letter as reasons for the request. Input from El Dorado County constituents and a desire to compare environmental impacts between alternatives 4, 4A, and 5 we’re also given as reasons for the request.

The reconsideration request will be heard at the March 28 Governing Board meeting in Kings Beach.

Heavenly Mountain Resort declined to comment on the environmental groups’ statement.

The Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival on Tour returns to South Lake Tahoe for its second year with an expanded lineup designed to capture the attention of audiences of all ages.

New to the festival this year is a kids matinee and a general matinee taking place before the traditional evening program.

Saturday’s festival, sponsored by Sierra Nevada Alliance and Patagonia @ Heavenly, differs from other film festivals in the region because organizers hope viewers will embrace the environmental advocacy messages in the films.

“We want people to leave feeling inspired and motivated to go out and make a difference in their communities and in the world,” said Kay Ogden, development director for the Sierra Nevada Alliance.

Somber moments will certainly be felt by audience members during films like “Ryan’s Well,” which follows a 6 year old on his journey to help the people of Uganda, and “The Forest for the Trees,” a film documenting the legal struggles of

Earth First! activist Judi Bari.

But the festival is not without a sense of humor. One short entitled “The Mouth Revolution” features an army of upside-down mouths staging a “shut-up” because they don’t want to eat the ingredients in modern-day food.

“We’re billing it as the best upside-down mouth movie ever made,” said Louis Fox, director and co-writer of the film. “If you can find a better upside-down mouth movie, we’ll give you your money back.”

Sierra Nevada Alliance won’t be backing up Fox’s boast with any refunds due to the fact that ticket revenues go directly to fund the non-profit organization’s programs.

Tickets for the festival range from $5 for the kids matinee to $15 for the evening films. Discounted tickets can be bought in advance at Patagonia @ Heavenly, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, and the Sierra Nevada Alliance.