Debate over Deerfield Drive doesn’t diminish
Chirping birds and the hum of nearby Interstate 80 traffic are the only sounds that steadily penetrate the quiet 40-home community east of Cold Stream.But plans to tie the neighborhood to an area farther west, across Cold Stream, via the proposed Deerfield Drive connector could cause something of a roar.Starting at the traffic signal at Highway 89 south, Deerfield Drive splits the neighborhood until the street ends at a small cul-de-sac near a peaceful meadow. From there, a small gravel and dirt road runs west all the way to Cold Stream, where it ends at the eroded footings of a bridge that attempted to span the stream in the early 1960s – a short-lived attempt to connect Truckee’s two Deerfield Drives.While rumors of reconnecting Deerfield Drive have floated around since the 1980s, plans for residential and commercial development adjacent to Teichert Aggregates property (Planned Community One) and the General Plan update are driving town officials to make a definitive decision on the controversial Deerfield connector. The planning commission’s 3-2 vote on Wednesday illustrated the continued divisiveness of the issue. The commission recommended that the Truckee Town Council allow a gated, emergency access connecting Deerfield Drive with the Teichert development and the other side of Cold Stream. But the recommendation came with the stipulation that if it becomes a publicly accessed road, traffic measures will be used to discourage drivers from cutting through the Deerfield subdivision.
The route, according to preliminary ideas, could run to the south of residences that sit alongside the dirt road, and weave indirectly to a connection point with Deerfield Drive either at the cul-de-sac or closer to the Boulders, town staff said. Deerfield residents, however, contend that a connected road could drive down their property values and quality of life. Town officials have respected residents’ comments in the past by refusing to pursue a straight connection that would lure traffic off of Donner Pass Road. Teichert Aggregates suggested at the planning commission meeting that any connection of Deerfield Drive be accessed only for emergency purposes.During the General Plan update, town staff is seeking a definitive direction on the future of Deerfield Drive from the planning commission and town council. The 1996 General Plan left the issue somewhat ambiguous, said Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook.”We kind of punted this thing 10 years ago and we’d like to not punt it again,” said Lashbrook.With the possibility of around 250 residential units and some commercial development on both sides of Cold Stream, the sensibility of connecting future neighborhoods to Highway 89 through Deerfield Drive is apparent. The possible benefits must be weighed against the obvious impacts a connected street would have for residents, Lashbrook said.
Without some type of connection, a future resident of Planned Community One who wanted to go to the Crossroads Shopping Center would have to take a looping route using Donner Pass Road or Interstate 80, Public Works Director Dan Wilkins said.And some of the commissioners wondered if a gated access was one step away from an open, public access. “Frankly, I think that if you build it and put a gate across it … you will have a revolution from the [PC-1] residents,” said Commissioner Paul Leyton, noting that once PC-1 is built, the residents may clamor for local access to State route 89.Commissioner Nancy Richards said that the General Plan encourages neighborhoods to be connected, and that should be taken into account.Both Leyton and Richards voted against the commission’s decision, indicating that they were in favor of further modifications to an emergency access.
Deerfield residents wondered if eventually opening the street to public access would invite gridlock that would prevent emergency vehicles from navigating the street in a winter storm. The Deerfield connector has been held up as a second emergency access to Donner Lake and the future PC-1 development. “If this is a through road, you won’t get an emergency vehicle down this road either [in a winter storm]” said Larry Kelly, a longtime resident of Deerfield Drive. “If it’s a through road people will come through.”The gate that the commission recommended should solve the potential gridlock problem, but commissioners and residents wondered aloud at the meeting how long that gate would stay up.”If I had my way I would rather like to see it stay just as it is,” said Deerfield homeowner Britt Chambers. The town council will review the traffic circulation issues, taking into account the commission’s recommendations on Deerfield Drive and other issues, its June 22 General Plan update meeting.Other issues that will be discussed on June 22 are: a railroad undercrossing to the east of downtown that could replace the Bridge Street crossing, and the future use of roundabouts in town.