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Private business interests at Lake Tahoe prevail in U.S. District Court



Late Monday in U.S. District Court in Reno, defendants Sierra Colina, LLC and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency were granted their motions for summary judgment in their entirety, and at the same time the court struck down plaintiff League to Save Lake Tahoe’s motion for permanent injunction and dismissed its lawsuit, thereby enabling Sierra Colina’s project to proceed.

On August 21, 2009, the League filed a lawsuit challenging the TRPA’s June 24, 2009, approval of the Sierra Colina Village Project, which included as key elements public storm water treatment facilities and four public, shared-access, bicycle and pedestrian trails and pathways through its private parcel in Stateline. The League alleged that TRPA had abused its discretion by approving the project’s access driveway as part of Sierra Colina’s proposed network of public pedestrian and bike trails on its property.

“Judge Robert C. Jones’ decision heralds a significant victory by allowing responsible development which invigorates the economy and creates jobs to advance in the Lake Tahoe basin without frivolous lawsuits tying up environmentally beneficial projects,” said Steve Kenninger, co-owner of Sierra Colina, LLC.

According to federal court rules, a court will grant summary judgment only when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”

“Sierra Colina and TRPA winning this case in federal court is a significant turning point – it represents a new era in successful public-private collaboration to bring environmental and community benefits to Lake Tahoe,” said Nancy McDermid, Douglas County commissioner and TRPA board member.

In his opinion, Jones noted that Douglas County “ha been waiting for years for a private land owner of this parcel who shared an interest in providing significant public benefits by completing this missing link in trail system,” and he held that the “record demonstrates that is the key component to connecting the existing pedestrian/bike trails in the region and, thus, serves the needs of people other than those who will be residents of the project.”

Sierra Colina is an undeveloped, 18-acre urban in-fill parcel located at Stateline, Nevada, bordered by U.S. Highway 50 to the west, the Lake Village Subdivision and Lake Village Professional Building to the north, a commercial retail center to the south, and a U.S. Forest Service parcel to the east. Located in the urban core of Stateline, the Sierra Colina bicycle and pedestrian trails that were attacked in the League’s lawsuit will link for the first time this private property to the existing Douglas County regional system of recreation trails.

Sierra Colina Village is striving to become the first neighborhood in the Lake Tahoe basin to have all its homes meet state of the art green sustainability criteria. It is designed to be a single and multi-family residential neighborhood that will provide a mixture of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Certified and Energy Star rated sustainable market-rate and deed-restricted moderate-income homes.

“The federal court’s ruling in favor of Sierra Colina and the TRPA is a milestone for residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin who believe the only way to keep Tahoe blue is to rebuild green. Sierra Colina is a superb example of a private project that incorporated the greatest public gain,” said Claire Fortier, TRPA board member and mayor pro tem, South Lake Tahoe.

“Between bike paths and open space, affordable housing and significant storm water treatment facilities, Sierra Colina gained enormous public support for its thoughtful and standard-setting design. The court’s ruling allows us to begin a new chapter in Tahoe’s environmental sustainability,” observed Fortier.

The Sierra Colina case is one in a series of lawsuits which the League has filed in recent years to block the efforts of TRPA, local governments and local businesses to implement new laws and projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin in order to create environmental improvements which would also help sustain the local economy.

For more information on Sierra Colina please visit the Sierra Colina Village Project website.

To read Jones’ complete legal opinion please visit League vs. TRPA & Sierra Colina at www.sierracolinavillage.com.

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