Downtown office ban inches toward OK | SierraSun.com

Downtown office ban inches toward OK

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Truckee’s downtown office ban is one step closer to becoming a permanent ordinance.

Truckee’s Planning Commission Wednesday voted four-to-zero in favor of recommending an outright ban on non-bar, non-restaurant, and non-retail businesses on Commercial Row’s ground floor. The commission made additional recommendations to prohibit offices to sell to other office uses ” effectively phasing out all offices as current businesses close or move away. The commission’s recommendations will be considered by town council in the coming months.

Planning Commissioner Bob Johnston said staff’s survey of about 20 different western mountain towns demonstrates the need for such an ordinance to maintain downtown Truckee’s vitality.

“It doesn’t hurt an office not to be downtown,” Johnston said.

Phil Haught from Jacksonville, Fla., who was shopping on Commercial Row, said the ordinance makes sense.

“It’s retail and restaurants that attract people,” Haught said. “Offices are better suited on the second level.”

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When considering real estate offices, Haught said they are a more fitting option, but said downtown Truckee didn’t need anymore.

Representatives of Truckee Realty (located on Commercial Row) disagreed however, saying that a real estate office’s location matters, and also contributes to a healthy mix in downtown.

“Being on the second floor would be terrible,” said Lee Fraser-Shontz, a Realtor with Truckee Realty. “We couldn’t show listings in the window ” all real estate offices have a display window.”

While businesses like Truckee Realty ” already in a ground floor space on Commercial Row ” would be allowed to remain, the clause added by the commission which would prohibit an office from selling to another office was a source of concern.

“It would impede our ability to sell the business, and that cannot happen,” said Pat Fraser, a broker and owner of Truckee Realty.

While the newly-updated general plan supports the ordinance as a way to cultivate downtown business and tourism, Truckee’s 1997 Downtown Specific Plan may contain conflicting language.

According to a town staff report, the plan says the town should “encourage the establishment of additional office space downtown to balance out the seasonal fluctuations created by retail uses.”

Associate Planner Jenna Endres said the new ordinance’s limited scope ” which affects only part of downtown at the ground level ” means that the two policies are compatible.

The downtown specific plan is due for an update within the next year or two, and at Wednesday’s meeting the commission suggested that during the update the town should explore increasing the area affected by the ban, Endres said.