CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. — Tahoe Biltmore Lodge & Casino is closing later this month after one last hurrah, with demolition and revitalization of the historic resort expected to follow soon after.
The Biltmore will close after hosting a party on April 23, with free food and cash giveaways, including one of about $15,000.
Biltmore to host farewell party with cash giveaways
The Tahoe Biltmore Lodge & Casino will host a last hurrah party on Saturday, April 23, before demolition begins. A memory wall has been created for visitors to share their favorite memories. There will be free chicken sandwiches and cash drawings from 1 to 7 p.m. and live music. There will be five cash drawings, with the grand prize being the last one and should be around $15,000. Complete rules will be available on site.
After shuttering operations, developer EKN Tahoe LLC, which purchased the casino resort and encompassing land on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore, is expecting to start demolition near the beginning of May, when digging season begins at Lake Tahoe, depending on the weather.
The project, dubbed Revitalize Tahoe Biltmore, has survived appeals to Washoe County from residents and organizations. It’s been dubbed a revitalization of the resort. The project is expected to take four to five years before a new hotel and around a 10,000-square-foot casino open.
The appeals to county commissioners focused on mass grading, further traffic congestion and emergency evacuations if there were a fire, and diesel fumes from the many truck trips it will take to haul away debris.
Washoe County commissioners recently heard appeals during a March 22 meeting. The appeals were supposed to be heard at 2 p.m., but were pushed five hours due to public comment on a different agenda item.
Two appeals were dismissed because they didn’t have standing, as the residents live more than 500 feet away from the project. The other appeal was denied.
Ann Nichols, with the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, has railed against the project, wanting more clarity and communication.
“This county/TRPA workaround is not just about mass grading, it is about massively ignoring community concerns,” Nichols said. “We need the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to do their job and not be complicit in the Washoe County abandonment of process. We all want something nice built down there, but the scope of the project has changed. It sounds like the project will be changed from what was approved, but we don’t know, they haven’t let us see any plans. It’s the biggest development on the North Shore since the Hyatt. And it’s not the way things should be done.”
The development’s plans were initially approved in 2011 by the planning agency and Washoe County when it was called Boulder Bay. The developer said it is moving forward with grading after the special use permit was approved Feb. 3 by the Washoe County Board of Adjustments.
Ebbie Nakhjavani — founder, CEO and president of EKN Development, a family-owned and operated company — said he’s sensitive to the community’s interests, and plans to take all the appropriate steps to be in compliance.
“With all its projects, EKN is committed to transparency and active communication with all stakeholders,” Nakhjavani said. “As with all our destination properties, this project is designed with the community in mind. Our team’s design elements include innovative environmental and energy-saving elements and are focused on supporting sustainable tourism and employee housing needs, all of which will be further detailed as the project unfolds.”
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency said the ball is not yet in its court, and that the developer is going through the county first.
“If the developers want to deviate from that permit, the ball will be in our court,” said TRPA Public Information Officer Jeff Cowen. “The grading permit has been approved and it doesn’t have a project with it, and it doesn’t need one. The developer hasn’t submitted the grading plan as of yet. They don’t need a permit to grade, they have one, they need to submit to us a plan. We’re looking forward to working with the developer to get improvements that will come with redevelopment.
“A big part of this is that this is highly blighted,” Cowen continued. “It is detrimental to the scenic thresholds. It’s a long-awaited face lift.”
The existing planning agency approval allows for 334 units, including the 18 Granite Bay condominiums already built. EKN said it will examine whether it will build all the remaining units as part of the project, it states in a press release. The large asphalt surface parking currently on the site will be demolished and be transformed to include open space, courtyards, landscaped walkways, and an amphitheater.
Bethany Drysdale, media and communications manager for Washoe County, said documents submitted for building plans are not public record until the permit is issued, but that interested residents may follow progress online at onenv.us, and search for “Resort-At-Tahoe.”
She said that as of Monday, no construction is permitted, as four building permits are under review or resubmission, adding that county personnel were at the site on April 8 to review site activity.
A fence has been installed to mitigate criminal activity on the site, which is unrelated to the project, Drysdale said. She added that the site will also host law enforcement training.
Drysdale said the county has asked for corrections to the mass grading and demolition plans, and is reviewing grading plans.
Nakhjavani said the project will start with remediating asbestos hazardous material at the cabins, followed by the Biltmore main building. The next step would be to build a series of connector roads “that maintain traffic as required by the county.”
Nakhjavani said that designs will not be kept secret, and plans to have public meetings and forums.
“We’ll share with everyone what the plans look like,” Nakhjavani said. “We’re not closing roads or changing the project. If it impacts anything, we’ll be there.”
Nakhjavani said EKN will give a presentation on Monday, May 2, at the Incline Village Crystal Bay Citizen Advisory Board Meeting. The board has requested EKN discuss grading and the amount of truck trips expected this spring and summer, but per EKN, the information requested is still under discussion and will provide more information when permits are approved.
EKN says it remains committed to the future of Crystal Bay and surrounding communities. It is now a founding member of the Incline Village Crystal Bay Community and Business Association, and sponsor of the upcoming Incline High School Boosters Crab Feed.
“Our commitment is to the community, we want to be out there,” Nakhjavani said. “For our hotel to succeed we have to be in the community. It’s the Number 1 priority. We are always looking at projects where we can stay and operate. We’re planning to stay in the area.”
Bill Rozak is the editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org