The Truckee Planning Commission unanimously denied Tahoe Donner’s proposal to improve the Tahoe Donner Marina facility at Donner Lake, and deemed the project’s design inconsistent with the town’s development code. Before their decision, planning commissioners said that more could have been done to the project’s design to minimize disturbances to Donner Lake’s natural environment.

“Essentially they could not make the findings to approve the project,” said Jenna Endres, associate planner for the Town of Truckee.

The Tahoe Donner Association asked the commission not to postpone a decision on the project again. A mid-April planning commission meeting on the project ended with no decision.

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Tahoe Donner proposed improvements to the boathouse terrace that included increasing patio space and installing a glass windscreen, thinning trees to make the the picnic area more accessible, and stabilizing steep slopes to minimize erosion. At the August meeting, Tahoe Donner Association President Tom Johns stated the objectives of the project were to increase utilization of the space, improve handicap access, and install enhanced environmental measures.

“In what can only be described as an unprecedented overreach of authority, unbound commissioner commentary, and an unclear desire for us to, once again, redesign every aspect of the project and operations of this original Tahoe Donner amenity, the Planning Commission was asked to finally record a vote,” said TD general manager Robb Etnyre in a statement given to Moonshine Ink.

The commission came out with a lengthy list of concerning areas of the proposed plan, including the retaining walls at the western end of the beach, the placement of pathways, the safety of the reduced vehicle corridor, and tree removal, among others.

The applicant and staff disagreed on the issue of whether developed land excused the Tahoe Donner Association from ignoring the town’s code that prohibits builders from disturbing a slope steeper than 30 degrees. While town staff recommended that increased flexibility be given to developers when it came to land previously developed, said Endres at the Aug. 20 meeting, the town’s code has a clear position on slope disturbance.

“We don’t know if it’s modified,” said Endres about the project engineer’s claim that developers had previously touched much of the contested sections of beach. “The ordinance would say, ‘do not disturb the existing land.’”

The extent of tree removal was another hot topic that carried over from the April hearing, even after the Tahoe Donner Association reduced the number of trees, with diameter’s greater than six inches at breast height, for removal from 20 to 12, six of which were marked for removal because of health or safety reasons.

Tahoe Donner resident John Martin, an active opponent of the project’s tree removal, says the wrong set of standards was being applied to the trees when marking them unhealthy or hazardous. “It’s an important issue whether trees that are unhealthy should be removed,” said Martin. “Two independent arborists have questioned why the TDA Forester thinks the trees should be removed.”

Tahoe Donner Association has until Aug. 30 to file an appeal with the town council and challenge the decision. “The board of directors is currently weighing options to address this unfortunate decision,” said Etnyre.

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