1. I want to build a deck on my property. What do I need to do?
Since the deck that is proposed may create land coverage, the activity may be a project that requires a TRPA permit before it can be constructed. Before a project application is submitted, the land capability of the property must be determined and the amount of existing land coverage known. This information can be obtained from two sources:
- Existing records available from the TRPA
- By submitting a site assessment application to TRPA
A site assessment will verify your land capability, which determines the amount of allowable land coverage on the parcel, and your existing land coverage on the parcel. These amounts may then be compared to determine if coverage is available to build a deck. If the existing coverage exceeds the allowable amount, the TRPA cannot approve the deck since it increases land coverage on the parcel. If the existing coverage is less than that allowable then the remaining potential land coverage may be allocated to the deck and a TRPA permit may be issued. A permit may also be issued if it is possible to relocate existing coverage on the parcel to be used for the deck.
Prior to submittal of a site assessment application, a records search should be requested to determine if land capability and existing coverage information is currently documented. A previous authorization or permit, if approved after July, 1987 may be used to document the above, obviating the need for a site assessment. In El Dorado and Placer counties, site assessment applications can and should be submitted to the counties, who will then process the application pursuant to an agreement with TRPA.
Once your coverage is known, and if appropriate, an application for a permit to authorize construction of the deck should be submitted to the TRPA although in some cases the local jurisdiction may review your application. Check with a TRPA planner for additional information.
In a few cases, the proposed deck may not create land coverage. It may be that the proposed deck is to be built over existing land coverage or due to the height of the deck it does not create land coverage. In either of these cases, the activity may not require a permit and the deck may be constructed as either an Exempt or Qualified Exempt activity. Contact a TRPA planner for more details.
2. What is my IPES Score, and what does it mean?
If your parcel was developed prior to 1987, you do not need an Individual Parcel Evaluation System (IPES) score. IPES scores were originally furnished to the property owner at the time of the evaluation. If you do not know your score, you may contact TRPA staff and request it. Note: If your parcel is developed, it will not have received an IPES score.
IPES was adopted in 1987 as a more parcel sensitive method to determine development eligibility and allowable coverage for residential parcels. IPES scores applied only on vacant residential parcels.
In 1987 and 1988, vacant residential parcels in the Tahoe Basin were evaluated and scored based on the following eight elements:
- Relative erosion hazard
- Runoff potential
- Stream environment zones
- Condition of local watershed
- Ability to revegetate
- Need for water quality improvements in the vicinity of the parcel distance from Lake Tahoe
Each parcel was given an IPES score ranging from 0 to 1017. Parcels with an IPES score of 726 (the "cutoff" line) or higher were deemed to be equivalent to the Bailey system capabilities of 4–7 and considered "buildable." Annually, TRPA evaluates how each jurisdiction in the basin has worked towards protecting environmental quality; based on these studies, staff may lower the IPES "cutoff" line, thus increasing the number of parcels that are "buildable."
Currently, if a parcel has an IPES score of 726 or greater in Placer county, or 1 or greater in any other jurisdiction, it is above the "cutoff" line. For residential parcels in El Dorado, Washoe and Douglas counties, or in the City of South Lake Tahoe, all parcels with a score greater than 0 are eligible to apply for an allocation. TRPA has been able to adjust the eligibility line in those jurisdictions because the total inventory of non-sensitive vacant parcels has surpassed the inventory of sensitive parcels. Circumstances in Placer County have kept that tally from reaching a similar ratio, so TRPA has prioritized resolving this issue in Placer County following the Regional Plan Update in 2013.
Land Coverage allowed pursuant to IPES
Base allowable coverage on IPES parcels is determined by the first two of the above mentioned elements: Relative erosion hazard and runoff potential.
Because only two of the eight elements determine coverage, two parcels may have identical IPES scores, but different percentages of allowable coverage. When a parcel is scored, only 1/3 of an acre (14,520 sq. feet) is evaluated. For parcels larger than 1/3 acre, a Determination of Allowable Coverage application is needed for TRPA to determine if the whole parcel is "similar and contiguous" to the original 1/3 acre evaluated. If a parcel is at least 25,410 sq. feet an owner may apply for an alternative building site evaluation for the parcel. The alternative building site may not overlap the original building site by more than 25%.
3. What permits have been issued on my property?
TRPA staff can complete a records search for past or current approvals or other files related to a specific property. The process is more efficient if the Assessor's Parcel Number (APN) is known and will be most thorough if previous APNs are known as well (parcel numbers may have changed for various reasons).
TRPA strives to obtain records within five working days, however, some TRPA records reside offsite, therefore, in some cases, the retrieval of records may exceed the five–day target. Once records are obtained, they may be made available for public viewing in the Reception area at TRPA. Files are a matter of public record, however, research of file information is not always the responsibility of TRPA staff. It is almost always more efficient for the public to view file information themselves, rather than for TRPA to attempt to interpret information over the phone. File contents can be reproduced for a nominal cost. Blueprint reproductions are done out of the office at a reasonable cost as well.
4. When will my permit be issued?
The review time required of a project application is largely dependant upon two factors:
Once an application is determined to be complete, TRPA strives to act on the application within 120 days. In some cases, review time may exceed 120 days where additional information is required to review the project has not been received. Currently, the staff workload is high, and average review time for a project is approximately 90 days.
- The complexity of the project
- The current workload of the project review staff
You can reduce the review time required by submitting a complete application which includes original signatures, legible documents, and accurate information. Your patience is greatly appreciated. The project review staff receives an abundant number of calls, which may alleviate the concern of a permittee with respect to their project's review progress, but actually slows review time. Thank you for your help and understanding.
To view applications you may need for your project, click here to go to the applications page.
5. How can I get a permit for my existing, unauthorized buoy?
Submit an application available on the () page. TRPA's goal is to have all existing buoys in Lake Tahoe under a current valid permit before any additional buoys can be permitted. Only owners of shoreline property can apply for a buoy permit and there are limits on the number of moorings that a property can apply for. For applications for four or more buoys, a Baseline Shoreland Scenic Assessment may be required to be completed. This process requires submittal of a separate application. To view the buoy application, click here.
6. If applicable, what are the detailed steps the public must go through for a particular process (i.e. applying for a permit)?
Please review all the FAQs for more information. In general, a property owner or their agent must submit a project application with a filing fee and the associated application materials. This usually includes project plans and possibly building elevations.
The application is initially checked for completeness relative to intake, and then assessed again for completeness relative to review of the project. If the project is determined to be incomplete, a letter is sent to the applicant requesting the additional information needed. Once deemed complete, the project may require a site visit, and then is subsequently assigned to a project review planner.
Once reviewed and if appropriate, a staff level conditional permit may be issued. The applicant is required to sign the permit and fulfill any special conditions the permit may require, including but not limited to the payment of mitigation fees and the posting of a security deposit. Once all special conditions required to "acknowledge" (or final) a permit have been fulfilled, the permit can be signed by TRPA and any associated plans stamped "approved". In most cases, the permittee then must proceed with their TRPA approval to the local jurisdiction for final approval, usually to meet required local planning, building, and safety ordinances.
Once local approval has been obtained, the permittee may be required to make arrangements to complete a TRPA pregrade inspection. This inspection may be necessary to insure that required project conditions of approval are adhered to, and to make sure that the owner and/or contractor understands all permit requirements. Once a project is completed, a security return inspection may be required. This final inspection determines if the project substantially conforms to the project conditions. If determined to be in conformance, any posted security would be released back to the person who posted the security deposit.
In some cases, projects must be approved by the TRPA Hearings Officer which meets bi–monthly as needed, or the TRPA Governing Board, which meets monthly. In these cases, the project is heard at the appropriate hearing which is open to public discussion. Ultimately, the Hearings Officer or the Governing Board will approve, deny, or continue a project.
Some small activities may not require TRPA review. To find out if your activity is considered exempt, click here.
7. How much are mitigation fees and how are they used?
There are several types of mitigation fees that are collected by TRPA from project applicants that receive permits for development at Lake Tahoe. These mitigation fees are not used to pay staff salaries or overhead administration, but go directly to projects and programs designed to mitigate the effects of development in the Lake Tahoe Basin. A brief summary of each mitigation fee is described below. Not every project requires that mitigation fees be submitted. Some projects may require that only one type of mitigation fee be paid while others may require several different types of mitigation fees.
Water Quality Mitigation
Water quality mitigation fees are based on the amount of new land coverage being created by your project. Water quality mitigation fees are put into accounts set aside for each local jurisdiction. For example, if your project is located in El Dorado County and you paid a $500.00 water quality mitigation fee to TRPA, that money is set aside for Environmental Improvement Projects (EIP) in El Dorado County aimed at improving water quality. Examples of water quality projects include placing rock slope protection and planting vegetation along roadways to reduce erosion from barren slopes. Curb and gutters are also being installed on main roadways to help control storm water runoff and protect water quality.
TRPA's Code of Ordinances Section 82.3 lists the current fee amount and explains this process in more detail.
Air Quality Mitigation
See TRPA Code of Ordinances Section 93.3.D for the current mitigation fee amount.
An air quality mitigation fee is required for any new residential units (e.g., a new guest house) and for increases in vehicle trips generated by changes in a business operation. These fees are also put into accounts for each local jurisdiction in which the project is located. These fees are set aside for Environmental Improvement Projects that help reduce traffic and improve air quality. Examples include the construction of new bike trails and improvements to public transportation systems.
Offsite Coverage Fees
Offsite coverage fees are collected when new land coverage is being created in the public right–of–way. Typically, offsite coverage is created when a new driveway apron extends between the property boundary and the paved roadway. The mitigation fees for new offsite land coverage are calculated by the cost–per–square–foot of land coverage in your hydrologic area. The current land appraisal values are listed in the Excess Coverage Worksheet below. These fees are forwarded to public agencies in each state where an equivalent amount of land coverage is purchased with the mitigation fees and permanently removed.
Excess Coverage Mitigation
Excess coverage mitigation fees are collected when a project is approved on a property that has "excess" land coverage. All properties within the Lake Tahoe Basin are allowed a certain amount of land coverage. Many properties were developed before the land coverage limitations were established (February 10, 1972) and therefore some of these properties have legally existing excess land coverage if the land coverage created on the property exceeds what would currently be allowed.
Property owners that are proposing projects where excess land coverage exists have an option of submitting an excess land coverage mitigation fee or removing a certain amount of coverage on–site in lieu of paying the mitigation fee. Payment of an excess coverage mitigation fee eliminates the need to remove land coverage and brings the property into conformance with the current land coverage limitations. These fees are forwarded to public agencies in each state where an equivalent amount of land coverage is purchased with the mitigation fees and permanently removed. Therefore, the reduction of coverage goals are attained but in different locations than on the actual property where the project is proposed.
Excess coverage mitigation fees are calculated using a formula based on the amount excess coverage that exists and the estimated project construction cost. Small projects with lower construction costs pay a smaller excess coverage mitigation fee than do larger projects. Go to the Excess Coverage Mitigation Fee Worksheet for more information.
In many cases no mitigation fees are required at all. Please contact TRPA front counter staff to discuss what types of fees may be required as a part of your project approval.
8. What does it cost to submit a project application to TRPA?
The TRPA has established an application fee schedule for each project application type. ()
To enhance customer service, an information technologies surcharge fee is added to all application submittals. The current surcharge varies with the type of project application and is listed in the Fee Schedule. The fees are used to support the following project–related activities or IT systems:
- Maintenance of automated Geographic Information System (GIS) permit system
- File scanning (data archives)
- Assessor’s Parcel data maintenance
- Geographic Information Systems
- Information Technology (IT) hardware maintenance and upgrades
- Records Management software upgrades
- File and document production and replication
Please be sure to include the surcharge when calculating your application fees.
9. What are Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and how do they affect my Project? Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) are agreements between local jurisdictions, public utility districts and other entities that allow certain projects to be exempted from TRPA review or reviewed at a local jurisdiction building department. They can affect your project by eliminating a step in the permitting process. For example, most new single family dwelling projects and projects involving additions to single family dwellings can be permitted by your local building department without having to also submit a project application to TRPA. Except in Douglas County, TRPA and the local jurisdictions have established a partnership that allows the local building department to conduct the TRPA review process as a part of issuing a building permit for a project. In most cases this partnership allows for permits to be issued quicker and provides for "one stop shopping" when it comes to getting information about your project. Please note that if your new single family dwelling or addition project is located on a property that is visible from Lake Tahoe, a highway or Pioneer Trail, your project will likely have to be submitted to TRPA. Please contact your local building department or TRPA to discuss where to submit your project.
10. How can I contact a TRPA Planner for more information?
The TRPA operates two offices where planners can answer questions and get you to the information you need.