Downtown draft plan forwarded to council: Barsell development incentives discussed
Truckee’s planning commission last week made final recommendations for the draft Downtown Specific Plan before it goes before the town council tonight.
Town planners met May 14 and received public input and discussed incentive options for lodging development in the Downtown Specific Plan area. Specifically addressed were development incentives at the Barsell Lot located south of Interstate 80 adjacent to the Sierra Mountain Cemetery.
Although planners did not adopt specific incentive language to present to the council, they did recognize several alternatives. The incentive issue surfaced after three Barsell Lot studies concluded a lodging facility at the site would be feasible and profitable.
A town analysis said a hotel development might, however, require the incentives or additional revenue-generating land uses.
Truckee Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook said if lodging project site plans in the downtown area came before planners, they would entertain incentives such as financial, regulatory relief or land use.
Financial incentives are characterized as public-private partnerships that help achieve community goals such as increasing revenues, enhancing services, creating jobs and acquiring parks or open space lands, Lashbrook said.
Details of financial incentives are different for each project and are commonly used in towns with redevelopment agencies. In Truckee’s case, because it lacks a redevelopment agency, financial incentives would be funded from the town’s general fund, Lashbrook said.
Regulatory relief incentives are geared toward streamlining permit review processes for development. Lashbrook said, however, the Downtown Specific Plan draft provides direction in terms of types of development and standards to be met.
“It is difficult to envision additional streamlining or assurances that could be provided,” Lashbrook said.
Incentives for land use allow intensive development and mixed uses in terms of lodging by improving a project’s financial feasibility, and subsequently its attractiveness.
“In all cases except Barsell, the existing specific plan provides for mixed uses and a development intensity significantly higher than the general plan allows,” Lashbrook said. “Therefore, Barsell may be the only place that land use incentives to promote lodging would be meaningful.”
Land use at the Barsell Lot should be lodging with commercial allowed as a secondary use, Lashbrook said, adding the land uses would be subject to “a myriad of design standards.”
Mountain Area Preservation Foundation President and Downtown Citizens Advisory Committee member Stefanie Olivieri said adding development incentives to the DSP is a serious mistake. MAPF is a non-profit group aimed at maintaining Truckee’s small town character.
“The Downtown Specific Committee recommended incentives only if they were deemed absolutely necessary,” Olivieri said, adding MAPF believes development in the downtown area would happen without them.
Olivieri also said a mid-range hotel is a good idea for the Barsell property, but land uses should be low-intensity. She cited the Downtown Vision Plan written by Anton Nelessen, which concluded the land characterized as the gateway to Truckee should not be over developed.
“Nellison indicated the sensitivity of land and that it should have a low-intensity land use designation,” Olivieri said. “We think a hotel is viable and feasible there. We also believe a California Entry Visitor Center that can be an informational center for area residents should be located there.
“A small amount of retail space should also be located there, but only pertinent to the hotel.”
Olivieri said current retail space in the downtown commercial core is about 100,000 square feet. A mid-range hotel with a small amount of retail space would add another 90,000 square feet to the area.
“You have to kep a balance there. (Barsell development) cannot overshadow the existing downtown commercial development; they need to be about the same,” she said.
Town council members and planners and members of the Downtown Citizens’ Advisory Committee heard a presentation on design and land-use suggestions for the Barsell property during a Feb. 26 workshop.
The purpose of the study – presented by the consulting firm Design Workshop – was to determine if a high-end hotel was feasible for the Barsell lot from a marketing standpoint.
Design Workshop determined a high-end hotel – such as a Red Roof Inn – was not feasible at Barsell because the area is not a resort site; there are no accompanying amenities like a golf course or ski area. The consulting firm said a medium-sized, 120-room hotel, however, would help the local economy and make good use of the lot.
The study also concluded the 13-acre site would need a secondary development – like a restaurant or retail store – to compliment the hotel in order for the area to be cost effective and economically efficient.
DCAC members will determine a standard of review for proposed projects in the downtown area, and develop a recommended project for the Barsell Lot. Town planners and Truckee’s Town Council will review recommendations, which are to be included in the Downtown Specific Plan final draft.
The draft copy of the DSP is on this week’s council agenda. Councilmembers will discuss approving the draft for public distribution.
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