Council members look ahead: Planned community development proposals expected during 1998
Truckee Town Council members are wrestling with the prospect that some of the planned communities outlined in Truckee’s General Plan may submit proposals for development in the coming year – foremost among them Planned Community 2, where the announcement of planned development prompted the rancorous Measure M election in 1997.
In a public workshop recently, the council and planning commission heard input from the public and discussed the format in which public input would be incorporated into the planned communities’ specific plan process.
As the town planning staff worked to incorporate suggestions from the workshop into a presentation for the town, council members shared their thoughts this week on the way each would like to see the public participation process work.
“Public input is an absolute necessity,” Mayor Ron Florian said. He proposed two workshops during the submission of a specific plan by developers – one at the time the plan is submitted and another after the suggestions have been considered by town staff and the developers.
“At the first workshop, the town staff should provide guidance on how the planned community specific plan fits into the town’s general plan, to show how the developers arrived at that point and which guidelines are applicable,” Florian said. “No matter where the planned community is, the neighboring property owners should be notified of the workshops and have a chance to comment.”
Councilman Bob Drake expressed concern about where PC-2 will fall under any public input process developed now by the town.
“PC-2 has been in the process for at least a year, and maybe two or more,” Drake said. “Their planning is 95 percent complete. It would be patently unfair to apply this process to them in midstream.”
For the other planned communities, Drake said he supported loosely structured and informal workshops like the one which resulted in the unanimous decision that Caltrans retain the existing on and off ramps after construction of the Highway 267 Bypass.
“There should be a chair to provide decorum and control, but the public should be allowed to interact with the proponent,” he said.
Drake said the developer should be allowed to outline his plan to the public, and then allow them to comment or ask questions so that the project proponents can hear the concerns of the community.
“However, I don’t think the town staff should be bound by opinions from there,” Drake said. “They should take them into consideration. It is an opportunity for the community to express opinions and the staff may consider them in planning.”
Drake said the workshop will serve as a guide to let the developers know what kind of community reaction they can expect throughout the planning process, and that the planned communities will also go through the same formal process as outlined in the general plan.
“I think there ought to be early on at least an optional opportunity for the proponent to have an informal workshop to present plans to the public and receive input,” Drake said. “It should probably be conducted by the town.”
Council member Maia Schneider said she favors a community outreach process presented at various locations in the community.
“There should be representatives from the council and planning commission there,” Schneider said. “The workshops should should allow the majority of the community to be a part of the process.” She expressed confidence in Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook, who is devising a plan for public input.
“Tony is very skilled at what he does, and we’re lucky to have him,” Schneider said. “He has researched this, and when he comes to us with a plan, it won’t just be a shot from the hip.”
Schneider said all the planned communities, including PC-2, should go through the same process of public input.
“I know it must seem very unfair to PC-2 because they have been doing this for many years now, since before the town incorporated,” she said. “However, from the town’s perspective this is the first time we have dealt with them.”
She said the workshops should ensure that the system does not supersede the right of all citizens to be involved in the public planning process.
Councilman Josh Susman also said all the planned communities should go through the same public process, even PC-2, because it has not formally submitted a plan to the town.
“At this point, no PC has a plan on the table,” Susman said. “PC-2 has a land-use designation under the general plan, which in no way constitutes a land-use entitlement.” He said PC-2 has presented a conceptual plan to some members of the community, but never submitted to the town.
“At this point they have an idea of what they would like to do,” Susman said. “Whatever the outcome of the public process workshop is, it should apply to all planned communities.”
Susman said the recent workshop meeting was productive, because all the parties present agreed that public input is crucial to the specific plan process.
“The public has to be involved,” Susman said. “The process needs to be a lot more engaging to the public. I think we need pro-active solicitation of public input by the town, in the form of newspaper ads, press releases and stories in the Sierra Sun to impart the desire to the public to become part of the process.”
He said one possibility is to form neighborhood groups in the community, which would operate to keep residents informed, and bring a collective voice to the council.
“They would facilitate the public workshops for the planned communities, and form a terrific basis to address other issues of public concern, such as neighborhood watch groups,” Susman said. “Also, people would actually get to know their neighbors again.”
Councilman Don McCormack concurred that a procedure should be developed to involve the public before specific plans are submitted by the planned communities.
“I feel very strongly that we need to find a mechanism for public comment before any PC comes forth with a plan,” McCormack said. “If the plan is submitted first, that puts everyone in the position of shooting it down. That’s not a good idea.”
In the case of PC-2, McCormack said one possibility might be for the town to do a mailing advising the project’s neighbors of the meetings, and inviting them to take part.
“Reaching the organized groups like the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, the chamber of commerce, CARE and others is easy,” McCormack said, “But the general public is not organized. They are harder to reach.”
McCormack said although there have been suggestions by some that the town should hire a consultant to organize public input, he believes that would not accomplish the goal.
“A consultant would be able to help us decide on a message, but I think we already know what we want to say,” he said. McCormack said the difficulty is reaching the disparate parts of the Truckee community, and a consultant probably would not have any insights for the town staff.
“We need to begin to alert people that we will be trying to involve them in the public process, and that they need to step forward and participate,” McCormack said.
Planned Community 1 is located near the Donner Gate area south of Interstate 80, while Planned Community 2 is north of Interstate 80 on Highway 89. Planned Community 3 is located south of Highway 267 along Joerger Road.
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