Barton Ranch approved for demolition |

Barton Ranch approved for demolition

by Jack Barnwell
Barton Ranch buildings on Emerald Bay Road have been approved for demolition by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency hearings officer.
Tribune file photo |

Buildings at the W.D. Barton Ranch on Emerald Bay Road will be coming down following a ruling on Monday at a Tahoe Regional Planning Agency hearings officer meeting.

TRPA Associate Planner Tiffany Good said the family no longer uses the building.

The Barton Ranch complex currently has two residential structures, a barn, five outbuildings, a garage and one pump house. Most of the buildings, known for their iconic green roofs, were built between 1934 and 1955. Only the main residence and barn date back earlier.

Two cabins were demolished in 2009 and the coverage banked on the land.

The report was circulated to the State Historical Preservation Officer, who did not comment. The office did make recommendations for conditions of approval to compensate for the demolition of the buildings in June of this year.

The Mosher family and members of the Ledbetter family, descendants of the Barton family, now own the Barton Ranch.

Kirk Ledbetter said it was difficult to see the buildings torn down, especially having grown up in South Lake Tahoe.

“I want to say as a member of the Barton family that it is a challenge to go back and say at some point that we’ve reached a point of obsolescence that something can’t be repaired,” Ledbetter said. “We’ve reached that point.”

Ledbetter called it difficult to see the vandalism that occurs at the Barton Ranch despite prevention attempts.

He added the building doesn’t fit in well with the area.

“I remember the time at the old Tahoe Valley market and cottages and the way was preserved, but now the whole area is commercial with exception of this little piece,” Ledbetter said. “Those days are behind us and it’s kind of hard to capture that again in that location.”

As part of the conditions, the property owners must erect a display noting the historic significant of the site and the family. They must also provide dated color photographs of the buildings and historical documentation to TRPA, The El Dorado County Library South Lake Tahoe Branch, the Lake Tahoe Historical Society and any other appropriate local agencies.

TRPA found that while the buildings are historical assets, there was no reason to forego demolition. Removing the current buildings would include 39,007 square feet of coverage, two residential units and 5,631 square feet of residential floor area, which can be used at another location.

According to TRPA staff reports, the buildings are “deteriorating with failing floors, mold, and asbestos.”

Gary Midkiff, who has been coordinating the demolition request, noted that the buildings no longer have a purpose.

“The buildings, in the last 15 years, have been beyond the point where they are useful for the family to enjoy, so they had to stop using the buildings,” Midkiff said.

Midkiff said that his office started looking into interested parties that might relocate the buildings without any results.

The staff report also notes that South Lake Tahoe Police reports have found trespassers who have vandalized and have been living in the structures despite repeated attempts by the property owner to prevent that.

Midkiff said a recent tour has shown this continues to be a problem. He suspected drug use or production was occurring there.

“So far we are lucky no one has OD’d in the building,” Midkiff said.

Continued squatters could eventually constitute a danger to public safety, especially during the winter season.

“It’s only a matter of time before someone is cold and they decide to start a fire in there,” Midkiff said.

In addition, the application shall include existing oral interviews as part of the historical documentation and provide interviews to any Barton family members who had not participated in the past.

Ledbetter said the oral history might be a bit difficult since the oldest surviving Barton member who lived around that time is a senior citizen and doesn’t deal well with strangers.

Hearings Officer Jim Baetge said the requirement could be amended to reflect some flexibility.

Once the buildings are demolished and the land revegetated, TRPA will consider reallocating and banking the total land coverage the buildings represent.

Johnson, the historical society board president, said the board’s letter in March on foregoing preservation of the building was its final stance.

“We neither had the money or the manpower to affect anything,” Johnson said.

The South Lake Historical Society is an all-volunteer nonprofit.

Johnson said a book about the Barton Ranch and the family would be nice, but again isn’t something it can pursue. The current conditions for the permit will have to do.

People can appeal the decision until July 20, which would then require a decision by the TRPA governing board.