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Program to assist environmental improvements and economic development

Placer County is developing a program to assist private investment in environmental improvements and economic development at North Lake Tahoe. Those efforts moved forwardย yesterday when the county board of supervisors heard a program update from county staff and gave direction on the program’s guidelines, application and scoring system.ย 

With extraordinarily high costs for environmentally-sustainable redevelopment in the Tahoe Basin, developers have shied away from building projects in the Kings Beach and Tahoe City areas, which are the North Shore’s town centers. In fact, there has been no new tourist accommodations built in North Lake Tahoe in more than 40 years. The program aims to offset two contributors to the high cost of basin development: acquiring tourist accommodation units and infrastructure costs.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity of the kind of entrepreneurialism that could be reflected in all this, noting the track record that’s been reflected in trying to get things done in the basin,” said District 2 Supervisor Robert Weygandt.

TAUs are a commodity representing an overnight visitor accommodation. The program proposes to fund and acquire TAUs and bank them so they may be issued to projects that meet certain criteria. Any project proposed for the basin must have sufficient TAUs to proceed. In the ecologically sensitive Tahoe basin, the overall number of allowed lodging units is fixed. For new lodging projects, developers must buy existing tourist accommodation units. 

The program is structured on the principle that redevelopment projects of a certain size and scale will produce meaningful environmental and economic ripple effects that will create additional investment. This will leverage additional environmental and economic sustainability. To begin the process, a developer would complete an application that would then be scored according to a system spelled out in the report. Developers exceeding prescribed environmental and community vision standards would be scored higher, potentially qualifying them to earn TAUs, providing more certainty in project planning.

For the infrastructure cost offsets, the program will create mechanisms to fund extraordinary infrastructure costs for an individual project or community infrastructure improvements needed to encourage new development on a broader scale. The focus is primarily on parking, but with flexibility to incorporate other costs.

Board members asked staff for more specificity on the scoring methodology, rate of return on TAUs, community involvement and the consistency of proposed projects with community plans. Staff will return at a later date with an updated report on the program.

Approximately 72 percent of the sediment that pollutes Lake Tahoe comes from developed areas, many of which pre-date the environmental regulations currently in place to protect Lake Tahoe. Redeveloping blighted areas in the downtown centers provides an opportunity for more environmentally-friendly buildings and restoration projects, helping preserve Tahoe’s prized clarity.

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