TRPA wins land use suit

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TRPA wins land use suit

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A federal court has ruled in favor of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's updates to a broad land use plan for the Tahoe Basin. Judge John Mendez made the decision in U.S. District Court in Sacramento Monday.

The Agency approved the updated plan back in 2012, but last year the Sierra Club and the Friends of the West Shore filed a lawsuit to block those changes.

Wendy Park is an attorney at Earthjustice, the law firm that represented the two groups. She says the updates allow much more new development, which means more roads and ultimately more run-off entering the lake.

"Lake Tahoe is still recovering from too much urbanization and run-off pollution," she says, "and unfortunately the court's decision allows even more urbanization, the very cause of the lake's decline, without ensuring effective runoff controls are in place first."

Jeff Cowen, spokesman for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, says the updated regional plan will encourage developers to relocate existing buildings out of marshes and wetlands, by transferring those building rights to town centers around the lake. 

"What we have are a lot of outdated, older homes that were built before any environmental policies were in place that are hurting the lake," Cowen explains. "So, what we did was create an incentive-based approach where we wanted to encourage property owners to upgrade their properties by removing some of the regulatory barriers to redevelopment."

Cowan says relocating development to town centers will create more compact, mixed-use downtown areas which will support more walking and biking opportunities, ultimately cutting down on emissions.