Are we previewing buildout in Truckee?
TRUCKEE ” At some point in the future, Truckee will be done growing.
Called buildout, every zoned lot will have a new home, a business, or permanently preserved as open space.
Construction, generally a major economic engine for the town, will slow and shrink. In some ways, it will be similar to today, as the economy has shrunk the new housing market to a very small percentage of what it was two to five years ago.
“From a very big picture, new construction does look a little like buildout,” said Town Manager Tony Lashbrook.
Chief Building Official Michael Lavallee said residential construction has dropped to 10 percent of past years, with only two new homes submitted for permits per month last summer.
And the effects aren’t only felt in the building department ” construction materials like lumber, concrete, and plumbing supplies make up a big part of sales tax revenue, Lashbrook said.
Kim Szczurek, administrative services director for the town, said current estimates show sales taxes dropping by 15 percent.
Property taxes have also declined significantly, cutting roughly $700,000 from the town’s general fund, she said.
That means belt tightening for the town, Szczurek said, where vacant positions aren’t being filled and budgets are being reduced for future fiscal years.
But looking at today as a perfect model for future buildout isn’t taking the national economic recession and credit crunch into consideration, Lashbrook said.
Assuming a healthy economy, remodels, tear-downs, and additions will take up some of the slack, said Pat Davison, president of the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe.
“The question is do contractors stay put and change what they do or do they move, looking for other opportunities?” Davison said.
“My guess is it will be a smaller workforce, but more locally based,” said John McLaughlin, Truckee’s Community Development Director.
Likewise real estate agents will do better at buildout ” assuming a healthy economy ” than they are today, said John Falk, lobbyist for the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors.
“The vast majority of our business is home recycling,” Falk said. “New home sales are not to be sneezed at, but even at buildout we still expect real estate business to be as or nearly as busy.”
Still, that doesn’t mean the town should rest on its laurels, said Stefanie Olivieri, a long-time resident and business owner who also heads up the Downtown Business Association and board member of the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation.
“We need to recognize other industry compatible with our environment and our community,” Olivieri said.
Lashbrook said this means pushing even more for tourism, and maintaining a quality of life that will attract businesses to the region.
“It’s not like we are located ideally for every business or that we can offer incentives,” he said. “Businesses will only come for the same reason as everybody else ” it’s a great place to live.”
The last update of the town’s general plan, created at the tail-end of the construction boom, projected buildout of commercial properties at 2025, and residential some time after that.
Currently, Truckee has roughly 16,000 people. In 2025, the town projected 25,280, with a final maximum of 28,520 some time after that.
But with the current slow down, the year 2025 might be optimistic, Tony Lashbrook said.
Compared to projections calculated off of a healthy economy, Lashbrook said growth at its current rate would push buildout out for decades.
Others hope the population never reaches 28,520.
“If Truckee built out to 28,000 it would have a major impact on our quality of life,” said Stefanie Olivieri. “The no. 1 issue would be traffic.”
Instead of letting the town get so big, Olivieri suggested transfer of development rights ” taking big developments on the out-skirts of town and replacing them with smaller infill projects inside the town core.
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