The multi-year battle over pier and buoy fees at Lake Tahoe ended Wednesday when the Legislative Commission approved significant increases on a party-line vote.
Jan Briscoe of the Tahoe Lakefront Property Owners Association said residents who have those buoys and piers strongly oppose what they charge is a 1,500 percent increase. She was joined by Republican members including Sen. James Settelmeyer and Assemblyman Jim Wheeler of Douglas County.
But State Lands Administrator Charlie Donahue was joined by Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, Sen. Julia Ratti and other Democrats who pointed out that the current pier fee is just $50 a year, $30 for a buoy and that those fees haven’t been increased in 23 years.
Donahue said over the next three years, those fees would rise to $750 a year for a pier and $250 for a buoy.
He said those fees were set after a review of what other places charge for use of public property on lanes and rivers around the west. He said that study indicates that a fee up to $1,300 a year would be justifiable.
Ratti said she supports the recommended increase and that the “sticker shock” is because they haven’t been raised for two decades. She said even with the proposed increases, Nevada lakeshore owners will be paying half what those on the California side pay.
Settelmeyer urged the commission to send the regulation back and direct the participants to find a compromise.
He and Wheeler said the goal should be to avoid litigation they expect if lawmakers just pass the regulation raising fees.
Donahue said they have done that in numerous workshops. He said he believes after extensive study and discussion that the proposed fees are “very reasonable by comparison with other western states.”
He said the fees are for the use of state public lands, not for private property.
“There needs to be an appropriate fee structure to compensate the general public for the use of this space,” he added.
Wheeler said he would like to see such a large increase spread over a decade instead of just three years.
Carlton said she looks at it differently: “They got a deal for 20 years because the fees didn’t go up.”
He said the first $65,000 collected each year goes to the state General Fund. Money collected over and above that amount is put in a special account for the preservation of Lake Tahoe.
He said that includes possible work addressing aquatic invasive species and near-shore water quality as well as possibly increasing public access to the lake.
He rejected the suggestion they were increasing a tax on property owners: “This is a use and occupancy fee. It’s not a tax.”