Recap of TRPA Meeting on Potential Rezoning – Tahoe Area Plan

April 3, 2023

On March 22, 2023, the Regional Planning Implementation Committee (RPIC) of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) heard the request of Washoe County to amend of the Tahoe Area Plan adopted January 26, 2021, to allow airspace condominiums to be built on the approximately 42 parcels in Special Area 1, one of the Incline Village Town Center areas.  The requested amendment was advanced to TRPA by Washoe County in response to the developers of the 947 Tahoe Blvd. project to subdivide their 2 parcels into 40 air-space condominiums, ranging in size from 1525 to 4171 sq feet, and 900 square feet of office space, rather than the mixed-use commercial and affordable housing, which is currently the only allowed use.  Rather than asking for a “spot” amendment to eliminate the affordable housing requirement for the 947 Tahoe Blvd. project, Washoe County requested that all of Special Area 1 be re-zoned. The history of the current zoning is that on January 26, 2021, Washoe County adopted its Tahoe Area Plan to allow mixed-use commercial and multifamily affordable housing to be built in Special Area 1 and the other Town Centers in the Tahoe Basin while also allowing denser, taller buildings with less coverage requirements, than areas outside the Town Centers, in order to incent the development of affordable and workforce housing. The RPIC passed a motion to recommend to the TRPA Governing Board an amendment to change zoning for ONLY the 2 parcels that are the 947 Tahoe Blvd. project, not the entire Special Area 1 and that TRPA and Washoe County move forward with the understanding that they would define mixed-use for future projects and consider restricting Short Term Rentals.  The vote was 3 in favor and 2 opposed.  Commissioner Alexis Hill, who opposed, stated that when the amendment was brought forward to Washoe County, “they had a broader vision—to incentivize redevelopment in this area which has been stagnant the last couple of decades.” While the RPIC Board members discussed the need to incentivize affordable housing and achievable housing in making her motion, RPIC Committee member Shirley Aldea stated in making the motion “We don’t want to impede their project.  Phase the project (“spot” variance/approval) on the Tahoe Area Plan to allow it to move forward.”  Washoe County Commissioner Alexis Hill opposed a compromise amendment to have a “spot” approval for the  the luxury condo development stating, “I don’t necessarily think it’s the right thing to be looking at one development in particular.” One RPIC Board member summarized the vote as: “My interpretation is that we want to look at a phased approach.  The first phase we will recommend adding the use of single-family dwelling, to the subarea of Special Area 1 including the two parcels for the 947 project, and the second phase consider adding to the Special Area 1 with regard to Short Term Rentals.”  The group voting in favor of the motion of Ms. Aldean all saw their vote as a compromise to “spot” zone the 947 Tahoe Area project. Three of five members in attendance, Cindy Gustafson of California, Vince Hoenigman of California, and James Settlemeyer, representing the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, voted in favor of the revised amendment to “spot” zone the project, which will now be sent to the TRPA’s Governing Board. One thing that was interesting at the meeting was the assumption expressed by one of the RPIC Board members that there was extensive discussion by all the Commissioners at the Washoe County Board of Commissioners on this proposed Tahoe Area Plan Amendment, which was not the case.  At the Washoe County Board of Commissioners meeting, after Commissioner Hill spoke in favor of the proposed amendment, three of the Commissioners, Hartung, Clark and Herman each separately stated that they were not knowledgeable about the Tahoe Area Plan and would support Commissioner Hill on this topic since Incline Village is her district, Commissioner Garcia made no comment at all, and all 5 Commissioners voted in favor of the proposed amendment without any discussion amongst themselves or comments on the merits of the amendment other than Commissioner Hill’s opening comments. Below is the link to the recording. The discussion starts at 4:00 and end at 4:19.  The bulk of this section is Hartung asking Weiche questions about the TRPA process.  Overall, it is clear that the Commissioners would take Commission Hill’s lead as this change has no effect on their districts. https://washoe-nv.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=4113 Vince Hoenigman, a developer from California, acknowledged that “My biggest issue is that changing this area to allow condos will make it harder to incentivize affordable/achievable housing in the future.  We need to increase height, density, and coverage to incentivize developers.  But pushing up the land price means we’ll have to go even bigger with height, density, and coverage to lure developers.  The subsidies numbers are insane.  We’re not going to be able to do a ton without private developers and incentivize them.” The TRPA Governing Board has two bodies that review proposed amendments to the Area Plan.  Other than the RPIC, that body is the Advisory Planning Commission (APC). The APC, which is composed of both TRPA Board members and non-board members, did not recommend approval at its March 8, 2023 meeting. They identified a number of problems and issues to be further addressed with the proposed amendment. So, the APC did not recommend the re-zoning approval while the RPIC recommended moving forward with a “spot” zone for the project to move forward. Several Incline Village Community members attended in person and a large number of community members called in to express their opposition to the proposed amendment to the Tahoe Area Plan which was scheduled to begin approximately at 11 a.m.  The testimony at the RPIC meeting was delayed for an earlier meeting which went longer, and instead testimony was taken from 12:15 to 12:30 p.m. and then was stopped and continued to 2:00 p.m., but the community members remained on the phone and in person to speak.  To keep to its schedule and close the meeting timely, the RPIC reduced public comment time from 3 minutes to 2 minutes because of the large number of members of the public wanting to make public comment. The public comments were important.  The major themes of the public comment in opposition were: 1)  the proposed amendment would allow all of the now existing commercial properties that house the local businesses housed in Special Area 1 in older buildings (see attached map of Special Area 1), such as the Christmas Tree Village; the 711 shopping area; the Raley’s shopping area, the offices on Tahoe Blvd., the Alibi Ale Works, the area along Tahoe Blvd. housing the cleaners, fireplace store, liquor store, the Mountain Workspace and Nu Leaf;  the 937 Tahoe Blvd. office building, the NuLeaf Dispensary , etc. to become high rise luxury condominiums with a 900 sq. foot office to meet the mixed use commercial requirement, since there is no minimum amount of commercial required and no requirement to replace the existing commercial spaces, thus eliminating many of our local businesses like nail and hair salons, locksmith, hair salons, dry cleaners, retail, liquor stores, office space, nail salons, etc., 2)  developers will have no financial incentive to build workforce affordable housing that is critically needed in Incline Village because there is virtually no housing that is affordable to the people that work in Incline Village, while over 50% of the existing residential development is already expensive condominiums; and 3) there were years of Incline Village community meetings and public discussion of the Tahoe Community Plan and then the Tahoe Area Plan, gathering community needs, but Washoe County had no public meetings with the community on this critical amendment to the Tahoe Area Plan. Three speakers spoke in favor of the change, the head of the Incline Village Tourist Bureau, a local nail salon operator who believes this will bring her full-time customers, and a local property manager.  None of them addressed any of the issues raised by the public who spoke in opposition. Thanks to the many Incline Village Community members who attended in person and the large number of community members who called in to express their public comment.

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