A different way to develop in Truckee
In a normal development for the Town of Truckee, or anywhere else, a developer buys land, comes up with a plan and goes to the town seeking approval.
The town reviews the plan, staff members may suggest changes, the public gets a say during public meetings and decisionmakers approve or deny the project.
But the Railyard proposal is unique, at least for Truckee, because the town started planning for the 75-acre site east of downtown even before a developer got involved.
That’s because of the importance the public gave to the site, said Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook.
“Way back in 1995 as part of the Downtown Specific Plan we engaged a planner … and he engaged a public involvement process that to this day may have had more public participation than any other,” Lashbrook said.
Once that plan was created, the town applied for, and received, a $350,000 sustainable community grant from the state of California to create a Railyard Master Plan, Lashbrook said.
“We had a grant to do a master plan, and a buyer in Holliday, so it didn’t make sense to do the plan in a vacuum,” Lashbrook said.
A sort of partnership formed with Holliday Development, Lashbrook said, when neither the public agency or the private developer could tackle some of the site’s major challenges.
That, however, begs the question: If the town is supposed to monitor the developer, and the town partners with a developer, who watches both parties?
The short answer is the public, said Dan Carrigg, the legislative director for the League of California Cities.
“Governments are not in the business of development, so clearly there has to be a private developer involved. It happens all the time,” Carrigg said. “The best protection is the public process all cities have to go through to be very transparent.”
Lashbrook said while the partnership existed for general planning, that ends as specific applications come forward.
“The project still has to cut mustard with our General Plan, environmental review, the downtown specific plan, and the public review process,” Lashbrook said.
If the project is approved, a new relationship could form, this time with the Truckee Redevelopment Agency.
“The Redevelopment Agency partners financially on a project that would never happen without some type of assistance,” said David Griffith, redevelopment and housing coordinator for the town.
The agency could help with relocating the balloon track, a loop of track owned by Union Pacific Railroad used for turning snowplow trains around on the property, as well as realigning Glenshire Drive and Trout Creek, Griffith said.
“If a developer did this on their own they would end up walking away,” Griffith said.
But to keep everything above board, Griffith said the agency has to show that its help is necessary to make a project feasible.
In a project like the Railyard, the increased value of a site from redevelopment, called the tax increment, goes to the redevelopment agency to help keep tax dollars local for future redevelopment projects, he said.
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