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North Tahoe program hopes to kick start redevelopment and environmental improvements

May 19, 2016

A new Placer County program approved at Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting is intended to spark investment in private projects that will spur economic development and improve Lake Tahoe’s environment.

The Economic Incentive Program came before the board in April and staff was directed to make minor refinements. They returned Tuesday with a revised plan that addressed board questions and concerns.  

The program was created to deal with the extraordinarily high costs of development, redevelopment and environmental improvements in the Lake Tahoe Basin. There have been no new tourist accommodations built in North Lake Tahoe in more than 40 years. The program will focus on town centers -- Kings Beach and Tahoe City -- in the county’s portion of the basin. The program aims to offset two contributors to the high cost of development: acquiring tourist accommodation units and infrastructure costs. The program is also intended to work in concert with the other county initiatives recently put in place to help shorten project approvals.

Tourist accommodation units are a commodity required by hotels and motels and other lodging accommodations where visitors stay less than 30 days. In the Tahoe Basin, each guest room requires a TAU and they are a finite number and difficult and expensive to acquire. The program will allow the county to fund and acquire TAUs and bank them so they may be issued for projects meeting certain criteria.  

According to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, approximately 72 percent of the sediment polluting Lake Tahoe originates from developed areas, where most construction was completed before many current environmental regulations were established. Environmentally-sensitive redevelopment is widely seen as the path to improve lake clarity, air quality, retain and create new jobs, increase full-time residency, encourage walkable and pedestrian-friendly business downtowns, and beautify and strengthen the town centers and region.

The program is structured on the principle that redevelopment projects of a certain size and scale will produce an environmental and economic ripple effect creating additional investment. Now that the program is up and running, the county can continue acquiring TAUs, so that they are available for potential future projects. Interested developers will need to complete an application that will be scored according to a specific rating system, and then qualified projects will come back before the board of supervisors for final approval.

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