City may use eminent domain to complete Ski Run to El Dorado Bike Path

The Bike Coalition Attended this Council meeting and spoke in favor of using Eminent Domain in this particular case. See our letter here.

There are five small pieces of property standing in the way of completing the Ski Run Blvd to El Dorado Beach Class 1 multi-use trail, and it was determined in a City Council vote that South Lake Tahoe can resort to using eminent domain if necessary in order to complete it.

The walking and biking path is ten feet wide, and as it crosses the land in front of the old Don Cheapo’s Ski Rentals, Beach Retreat at Tahoe, Heidi’s Restaurant and Tahoe Beach & Ski Club, the City needs easement in order to make the path the required width, make it safe, and have it landscaped.

Mary McCall, owner of the land at Don Cheapo’s was at Monday’s meeting on the matter, and expressed a desire to work with the City on the easement they need. She said she wanted to make sure her sign will be replaced in a desirable spot on the property as well as being justly compensated. The size of her property that is involved is 126 square feet.

The City cannot pay over assessed value at any of the thirteen properties it has worked with to complete the project. The other eight property owners have already received compensation and signed over the easement on their property. The five remaining properties have an estimated value of $80,000. To date, the City has spent $254,000 in buying the easements.

Heidi’s owner Don Rosenthal said he didn’t think a bike trail in that location was safe, but being the project has been ten years in the making it is a bit late to change direction, city management said. He said that his business will be adversely affected with the ten foot easement. The sign at his business will need to be moved as well but he will not loose any parking spaces. Rosenthal owns the business, but not the land on which the bike path will cross. At question is 966 square feet.

Fractional ownership Tahoe Beach & Ski Club has 8,000 different owners and their by-laws state that it would take 100% approval of their owners to accept a deal from the City. Their board recommended the City use eminent domain as that would be the only way they would get the needed easement. They were assured Monday that their sign would remain, and, if needed, any rockwork would be replaced if needed. Their portion of the trail is 720 square feet.

Urbana Tahoe, owner of the Tahoe Beach Retreat, had no representatives at the meeting. According to the City, there was a signed easement agreement but once the grant deeds needing signing at escrow, Urbana refused to sign over their 2,100 square feet of easement.

The fifth parcel is owned by El Dorado County and is expected to be gifted to the City by the end of the year.

If the City hadn’t passed the resolution for use of eminent domain, they may have had to pay back funds received so far for the project. Jim Marino, Asst. Public Works Director, said that future issuance of grants may be at jeopardy if it was shown that they were unable to complete a project.

This final gap of the Pioneer Trail to Y bike trail is 3/4 miles long. They are on a tight timetable to finish the project by the end of the 2016 building season. $2.8M in grants will fund the project. In order to be paid the grant money, the project must be completed by June of 2018.

According to city officials, they have adjusted their plans several times to accommodate the land owner’s requests, even moving the 10 foot path right against the edge of the curb in some spots.

With a unanimous vote to use eminent domain to acquire the easements needed, staff felt they could work with the land owners in the next 45 days without using that last step. In the case of Tahoe Beach & Ski Club, it will be the only way to accomplishment the project.