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Council denies housing appeal

ANNE GROGAN, Sierra Sun

Town council last week denied the Tahoe-Sierra Meadows Community Association’s appeal of the Sierra Village Apartment Homes project, making way for the project to go forward.

Tahoe-Sierra Meadows Community Association Manager Rick Gardner spoke on behalf of the Sierra Meadows board and introduced his presentation with a clarification of the board’s position.

“We didn’t file this appeal because we’re against affordable housing,” Gardner began. “This is a high-density project whose impacts must be mitigated. Safety is a prime concern for everybody.”

The Tahoe-Sierra Meadows Community Association submitted its request for an appeal to the Town of Truckee based upon six articles of approval:

– The TSMCA disagreed with article 13 of the Initial Study/Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration stating that the increase in traffic due to the project will be less than significant when mitigation measures are incorporated. The association also said that the project will result in traffic exceeding a level of service standard established by the Truckee general plan.

– The TSMCA stated that it was appealing on the basis of the traffic study’s approval. The traffic study was cursory and incomplete, the appeal request said.

– Approval of the Conditional Use Permit was also contested in the TMSCA appeal request, which stated that preserving the 30-foot setback requirement is an important mitigation measure when considering a multi-family project adjacent to a single-family neighborhood.

– Another approved variance with which the association disagreed is the reduction in parking spaces to two per unit.

The request for appeal stated that the provision of two parking spaces per unit does not allow for guest parking and could lead to parking on surrounding streets or in the driveway, potentially obstructing traffic.

– The appellants stated that increased traffic due to the project will create a public health and safety threat and that the proposed mitigation measure, a right-turn lane from Martis Valley Road onto Highway 267, is not sufficient to alleviate the threat. In addition to the proposed right-turn lane, the appellants requested a traffic signal at Martis Valley Road and 267, and a left-turn lane from Martis Valley Road into the project driveway.

– The homeowners association also requested an appeal of approval based upon the document State Findings for Disapproving an Affordable Housing Project or Imposing Conditions, which states that an agency may disapprove an affordable housing project if approval would result in a high concentration of affordable housing units within the same neighborhood. The association’s appeal document states:

“The Highway 267 corridor, identified as a planning area and therefore a neighborhood by definition, already has a disproportionate concentration of low-income housing.”

Traffic at the intersection of Martis Valley Road and Highway 267, which will increase as a result of the project, was the first topic of the appeal addressed by Gardner.

“Traffic affects public safety,” Gardner said. “The left-portion of this intersection is already at failure mode. The project as approved by the planning commission would quintuple that projection.”

Gardner discussed the projection that delays could reach as high as 5 minutes for people turning left from Martis Valley Road onto Highway 267.

“If the delay becomes five minutes I see people taking risks to get through the intersection,” Gardner said.

The minimum the board would accept, Gardner said, was a traffic signal at the intersection.

Of the 16 members of the public to speak during the public hearing portion of the council meeting, 14 supported Gardner’s comments that the intersection in question does not function safely or efficiently and that public safety is a concern now, as it will be when the project is completed.

Mike Lynch, an area Boy Scout, discussed an accident in which he had been involved, stating that his parents’ vehicle had been broadsided and totaled as he attempted to turn left from Martis Valley Road.

“I don’t even live in Sierra Meadows and I perceive this to be a problem,” Lynch said.

Larry Burton, who drives a Dial-A-Ride bus, discussed his experiences at the intersection and said on Friday afternoons the current left-turn delay at the intersection approaches five minutes. Burton commented that weekend traffic, which is much heavier than midweek traffic, had not been surveyed during the two traffic studies completed on the intersection.

Robin Wood and Ken Eidecher urged council to delay the project, at least until the Highway 267 bypass is completed.

Town Planner Duane Hall presented town staff’s position recommending denial of the appeal, Gordon Shaw spoke on behalf of LSC Transportation Consultants, Inc. and Ruth Frishman represented the developer as the project proponent.

Hall explained that the project was awarded a setback reduction as a state mandated incentive and that the 267 corridor does not by virtue of its existence define the area as a neighborhood of highly concentrated affordable housing units.

Shaw explained the traffic studies completed at the intersection in question and discussed that despite the perceptions of those using the intersection, a traffic signal is not warranted at Martis Valley Road and Highway 267.

Frishman presented current wage trends in the area. She explained that a single parent of two children with a wage of $10 per hour would qualify for housing in this project and would pay rent equivalent to about 50 percent of the parent’s net pay, or about $634 per month.

“I am appalled and I am aghast and we are on our way to becoming an Aspen,” Frishman began.

She said that the multi-family zoning for the project site had been established 25 years prior, three real estate brokers had assured the planning commission that the project would not lower property values in Sierra Meadows, and she discussed the recently increased need for affordable housing in Truckee due to an explosive real estate market.

“Lower wage earners are looking at 20 to 30 percent rent increases,” Frishman said. “And their wages are not going up.”

Frishman said the Sierra Village Apartment Homes project will not be completed and occupied until the bypass is nearly completed. Upon bypass completion, the traffic issue will likely be a non-issue, Frishman said.

“This traffic situation is overblown by the residents,” she said.

“This application has been reviewed, pulled apart and put back together at least a dozen times,” Frishman said. “This is a quality development and this is something that is desperately, desperately, desperately needed by this community.”

In summation, Frishman reiterated her stance on the traffic issue.

“We should all go sit in San Jose traffic for a while and then come back and count our blessings,” she said.

As approved by the planning commission and as upheld by town council, the Sierra Village Apartment Homes 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 55 units will rent to households with income at 50 percent of the county median. The Nevada County median income is $48,800.

The project will provide 150 on-site parking spaces for its residents, and must provide accommodation for an additional 27 parking sites. One year after completion and full occupancy, town staff will examine the project to determine whether the additional parking spaces are required to prevent an overflow parking problem.

A right-turn deceleration lane will be constructed on Highway 267 approaching Martis Valley Road and a right-turn lane from Martis Valley Road will also be constructed to help alleviate the current traffic situation. These improvements will be made at the developer’s expense.

Council also agreed that once the bypass is complete and carrying a steady volume of traffic the intersection of Martis Valley Road and Highway 267 should be reexamined.

After each councilmember acknowledged that traffic at the intersection in question is a problem for the residents of Sierra Meadows, council voted unanimously to deny the Tahoe-Sierra Meadows Community Association appeal of the Sierra Village Apartment Homes affordable housing project.

“But for the grace of my landlord I would not be able to live in Truckee,” Mayor Maia Schneider said.


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