College campus open-space plan gets the go-ahead
Thirty-three acres of Truckee’s McIver Hill will be permanently protected as open space, according to an agreement reached at Tuesday night’s Sierra College board meeting.The remaining 40 acres of the 73-acre property will be open to develop a permanent Truckee college campus under a conservation easement the college approved with the Truckee Donner Land Trust this week. The college project will have some guidelines, however, such as height restrictions that will ensure buildings are not highly visible from areas around Truckee. McIver Hill is bounded by Highway 89 south, West River Street and Interstate 80.The easement, which was advertised as part of the $35 million Measure H bond passed last year, will cost the Truckee Donner Land Trust $1.1 million over 10 years. “[The easement] is assuring us that we will have a campus design that blends in with the community,” said Truckee Donner Land Trust Executive Director Perry Norris.Although the Measure H campaign advertised that more than 50 percent of the 73 acres would be protected as open space – the final easement actually bars development on 33 of those acres.But the entire hill will be under some restrictions, said Norris, and he expects over 44 acres of the land will never be built on.”All in all I think maybe 29 acres is going to have development on it,” Norris said. “Really, more than 50 percent of the hill will be open space.”The first phase of the campus, which will be large enough to hold 500 students, will occupy about 10 acres, planners said.Sierra College Trustee Dave Ferrari agreed that the restrictions placed on the 40 developable acres will ensure that some of that land remains in its natural state.”In the provision of the modest restrictions, I think that is going to retain more greenbelt,” said Ferrari. “I think we met our commitment to the community.”Norris said the final agreement allows the college to grow in the future, while preserving views, providing recreational and open space opportunities.”We think it is a really balance easement,” he said.The easement also includes an “escape clause” that says a majority of the area’s voters can override the easement at a later time and open up the hill to more development.Sierra College Planning Director Woodrow Wilson said the design of the campus will be clustered, leaving the traditional open space found in college campuses to the outside, wooded edges of the hill.”We are pursuing a very compact design,” Wilson said. “The buildings will be very close together and the parking will be right next to the buildings.”We will use the least amount of acreage that way,” he said.Wilson said the final easement lives up to the bond measure that was placed in front of the area’s voters.”It was 33 and 40 [acres] then, and 33 and 40 now,” Wilson said.Bob Hartsfield, chairman of the citizens oversight committee for the new campus, said although he was slightly concerned about the final acreage split in the easement, he believes it accomplishes the conservation goals outlined in the $35 million bond.”It let voters realize we are not going to have a massive structure that is going to dominate the whole hill,” Hartsfield said. “The issue was we were not going to destroy that hill as a landmark.”Norris pointed out that the height restrictions, and a clause that ensures that the college adheres to the town’s development code restrictions, are important since as a public institution the college is not required to comply with town design or height guidelines. The agreement will be a benefit to the community for decades to come.”This resolves one of the most daunting and looming land uses in Truckee,” Norris said.
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