Town of Truckee: Tackling years of code compliance issues a long process | SierraSun.com

Town of Truckee: Tackling years of code compliance issues a long process

Josh Staab
jstaab@sierrasun.com

The property between 10925 and 10855 West River Street hosts a number of businesses, some operating in compliance with town zoning codes, some not.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Zoning code compliance issues are as prevalent as there are towns across America, but for Truckee, issues brought forward amid recent approval of a new brewery near the Truckee River predate the official existence of the town itself.

Because of that, dealing with those issues takes time, and town officials agree it won't be an easy task to resolve.

"I have seen no matter where I've worked, code compliance is never easy," said Jenna Endres, senior planner with the town of Truckee.

Issues of businesses operating outside the confines of property zoning boundaries go back as far as 1978 and possibly further, said Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook, since town laws do not require individuals to secure business licenses prior to development.

It becomes problematic when confirming whether businesses are operating illegally or legally, or are nonconforming within zoning codes, Lashbrook said, and as can be the case for a town officially only 22 years old, businesses that existed before Truckee incorporated in 1993 are considered grandfathered.

Recent measures to revitalize a 7.8-acre parcel of land between 10925 and 10855 West River Street — where FiftyFifty Brewing Company's facility is proposed — gave Truckee Town Council members the opportunity to address the issue in an area they said has been plagued by it.

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The council's June 23 approval of the project requires the property owner to work with the town on a code compliance agreement of appropriate business use, which must be submitted and OK'd by council before building permits are granted.

STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION?

In a recent interview, Lashbrook said compliance issues on all properties have been systematically addressed throughout his 21 years working for the town of Truckee, though sometimes efforts have been stifled.

For example, unlike previous efforts, property owners are now willing to work with the town to bring business owners into compliance. It won't necessarily be an easy process, but having a property owner willing to work with the town is a step in the right direction, Endres said.

The timeline for getting each business code compliant will depend upon the type of use designated by the zone the business is operating within, she noted.

"We don't know what is broken," Endres said. "We know some of it; we have many files on (the businesses)."

Lashbrook pointed to recent efforts to revitalize areas like Brickelltown and plans to bring fresh business to the Truckee Railyard as examples of other areas that have either been revitalized or face similar issues as the riverfront property.

"Brickelltown was a mess in 1995, so we up-zoned it mostly to mixed use and there has been a lot of reinvestment since that time," Lashbrook said. "The town, which I was very involved with, was trying to create some economic incentive to get redevelopments done."

Like Brickelltown, planners are hoping similar efforts revitalizing the West River corridor can happen, Lashbrook said.

Unlike Brickelltown, however, the West River corridor has had more historical uses on it in the past, versus pieces of land that have had similar issues, he added, and finding appropriate projects that receive building approval that accommodate the area are not in abundance.

"If it were easy, government work wouldn't be needed," he said.

'IT CAN BE VERY FRUSTRATING'

With the West River corridor project approved, property owner CRB River Partners LLC (a holding company directed by Andrew Barr, co-owner of FiftyFifty), and the town's code compliance officer, Kerry Taber, are working to confirm the status of each business operating on the property as legal, illegal or nonconforming.

"We certainly know some," Endres said. "It's not going to be a surprise for a number of them; there may be a few caught off guard."

While some businesses have been accounted for as of this week, Endres was unable to provide specific information about the businesses, nor was she able to disclose exactly how many are operating on the parcel currently.

Taber explained the process as identifying each business from previous code cases, and doing inventory on those that were approved under old codes that can be improved — and those that have not taken any steps to improvement at all.

"You have people who are willing to work with you and then you get the people who will drag their feet," Taber said. "It can be very frustrating at times, but it can be very rewarding, because I've helped somebody."

There is a common argument Taber and Endres hear from the less than cooperative business owners.

"They say they don't need a permit and we shouldn't tell them what to do, and the town is just trying to make money," Taber said. "Well, the fact is these are state of California building codes that we as the permitting agency have to enforce."

From a land use standpoint, however, Endres noted the purpose of zoning is to ensure the business is compatible with the area where it operates.

"The town also gets resolution with code compliance issues that have plagued this area of town," she said.

Council members and town staff were scheduled to meet with CRB River Partners on Tuesday, July 14, to continue inventory work on the property and discuss the code compliance agreements.

What’s next

According to the agenda for the Tuesday, July 14, Truckee Town Council meeting, more time is needed to compile the proper inventory on the West River property for the project’s code compliance agreement.

Town staff is scheduled to recommend that council members continue the item to the July 28 meeting.