Saturday, February 28, 2009

Planning Tahoe's future

unedited 1/09 Tahoe Mt. News story:

By Kathryn Reed

Reality vs. pipe dreams. That sums up much of this month’s discussion about South Lake Tahoe’s general plan.
Representatives from Mintier & Associates, the consulting firm putting together the document that will be the city’s planning vision through 2030, gave the City Council an update Jan. 6.
Although the council likes the idea of fewer strip malls, more green space, pedestrian-bike friendly thoroughfares and a city that is well laid out, individually they all said that’s going to be pretty hard to achieve because when the city was incorporated 43 years ago planning was a missing component.
They questioned how and why private property owners would give up their business enterprises to make greenways. They talked about some parts of town, like from Tahoe Keys Boulevard to Meeks Lumber, not falling into community plans. Community plans are something TRPA came up with.
The city must comply with Tahoe Regional Planning Agency rules. The bi-state agency doesn’t expect to have its visionary document finished until 2010. It is likely to be significantly different than the rules set forth in 1998.
City Manager Dave Jinkens believes the general plan should be the city’s bible and that regional and other plans should be secondary.
No action was taken by the city earlier this month. The consultant expects to be back in May to ask the council to make policy decisions.

Plans for the Y

The much maligned Y Community Plan, also known as the Tahoe Valley Plan, is expected to see daylight soon. The draft environmental documents should be released this quarter. The public will have 60 days to make comments once it comes out.
TRPA and the council must approve the document.
In the meantime, TRPA’s community enhancement program (CEP) that was unveiled 18 months ago is making slow progress. So slow that the Governing Board later this month is expected to offer one-year extensions to project developers.
Of the nine proposals, two are on the South Shore – both at the Y. All structures would have to meet minimum environmental building standards.
The thrust of the CEP is that a project must go above and beyond the normal environmental improvements. In turn, property owners would be allocated commercial floor area and tourist accommodation units that are usually difficult or expensive to obtain.
Neither of the Y projects would use TAUs.
Preliminary ideas were submitted for the Kmart-Raley’s center and Mikasa properties. However, neither has developed the more detailed plans needed to progress. The original deadline to do so was next month.
Teri Jamin, South Lake’s community development director, believes both projects are “headed in the right direction” and deserve the one-year extension.
An out of town family trust owns the old Mikasa-Millers Outpost site. Separate owners have the deed to the former AAA building where the League to Save Lake Tahoe is headquartered. Those people have expressed an interest in being part of the development process.
“It makes sense to expand the site for circulation and traffic,” Jamin said.
However, she cautions that if a long-term lease is signed, then the CEP would be dead in the water. Raley’s has the lease and has sublet the property. The company did this to prevent a grocery store from occupying the building. Years ago Safeway was there.
In the preliminary plans, the Mikasa site would be a combination of retail and residential. An outdoor movie screen would top one building. It would be for special events, not full length features.
Across the street, the multiple owners of the Kmart-Raley’s center also submitted preliminary documents to TRPA for the CEP. It’s possible the wing where Starbucks is would be removed. Retail would be moved toward the transit center.
Although the original plans called for re-establishing a gas station, TRPA already nixed that idea.
Housing on top of Kmart and Raley’s would ideally connect the residential community behind the stores. A park has long been proposed for the property behind Raley’s on Tata Lane that was used for overflow council parking. TRPA likes this concept.
If the projects come to fruition, TRPA will have achieved its goal of reducing fine sediment that reaches the Lake and the city will have improved an intersection it has wanted to declare blighted.

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