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Affordable housing approved

ANNE GROGAN, Sierra Sun

The Truckee Planning Commission approved on March 8 a 72-unit affordable housing project within the Highway 267 corridor.

The Sierra Village Apartment Homes project site is located adjacent to the Sierra Meadows subdivision at the southeast corner of Highway 267 and Martis Valley Road.

Access to the apartments will create a four-way intersection with Jeffrey Pine Road and Martis Valley Road, from which the residents will access Hwy 267.

About 20 Sierra Meadows residents provided input during the public hearing portion of the planning commission meeting. The majority of those comments concerned traffic complications at the Martis Valley Road intersection.

“That intersection is at level F (failure mode) now,” Sierra Meadows resident and homeowners association board member Lou Raso said. “This is not acceptable. Don’t believe that after the bypass is built development will stop.”

Raso said the board feels that having low-income housing is important, but questioned the wisdom of placing Truckee’s 200 affordable housing units within a one-half mile distance.

“This project will add 288 trips a day to this intersection,” Sierra Meadows resident Robin Wood said. “We can’t handle what we have now.”

Wood referred to Placer County’s Martis Valley Community Plan, which allows for the development of 10,000 residential units along the 267 corridor, stating that the highway cannot accommodate traffic associated with projected development.

“I say wait until the bypass is finished before you approve any projects,” Wood said.

A representative of LSC Transportation Consultants presented the results of a project site traffic analysis, confirming, in part, the comments of Raso and Wood.

“Vehicles turning left from Martis Valley Road onto Highway 267 currently experience long delay,” Traffic Engineer Rebecca Bucar said. “Our analysis shows that an additional right turn lane will improve current conditions despite the additional traffic from this project.”

Bucar explained that the Highway 267 bypass, expected to be completed by 2003, will further alleviate traffic congestion at this intersection. Installing a traffic light is not recommended, she said, because the presence of the bypass will eliminate any need for a traffic signal. If an accident were to occur at a signal where analysis showed the signal was not warranted, the Town of Truckee could be held liable for the accident.

For this reason, as a mitigation measure a right-turn lane will be added to Martis Valley Road as part of the Sierra Village Apartment Homes project and no traffic signal will be installed.

The Sierra Village Apartment Homes project proposes seven two-story buildings comprising 85,600 square feet.

The project will include a 2,000 square-foot office/community building, eight two-bedroom units, 56 three-bedroom units and eight four-bedroom units. Of these, 15 units will rent at the market rate, two will rent to households whose income falls at 60 percent of the Nevada County median income and the remaining 21 units will rent to households with income at 50 percent the county median.

Attorney Ruth Frishman, representing the applicant, explained that the Nevada County median income for a family of four is $46,600. Fifty percent of that, $23,300, is the income generated by a job paying $11.20 hourly.

“We don’t have a lot of welfare recipients in our community,” Frishman said. “There are no welfare recipients living in Truckee Pines. There are working people in our community desperate for low-income housing. Ninety percent of the occupants will be families with children.”

A married, entry-level Nevada County sheriff’s deputy with three children earns $13.58 hourly and qualifies for affordable housing at the low-income level, Frishman said.

Regardless of extensive comment by both proponents and opponents of the project, California law severely limited the Truckee Planning Commission’s ability to deny the project, Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook said.

“I do not see the ability to deny per state law,” Planning Commissioner Craig Threshie said. “And I do support the project.”

Commissioner Arne Werchick also said that state law dictated the outcome of the permit application.

“I don’t see any way to reject the project,” Werchick said. “We all bear the traffic burden now as we grow and the need for affordable housing outweighs the burden of increased traffic on our roads.”

Commissioner Ted Owens concurred.

“I agree with both Craig and Arne wholeheartedly,” he said. “And I am very sympathetic to the Sierra Meadows residents. Our hands are tied. We can’t change the zoning from where we sit; this is an applicable use as zoned.”

Brita Tryggvi, elected the planning commission’s new chair at the start of the meeting, agreed with the other commissioners before she moved to approve the project.

“The general plan policies support this project,” she added.

Werchick seconded Tryggvi’s move and the project was unanimously approved.


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