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Downtown plan goes to council

DAN FOSCALINA

The draft Downtown Specific Plan – a four-volume report implementing the Truckee General Plan in the downtown commercial core – is headed to the town council.

After reviewing the DSP for almost a month, Truckee’s planning commission on Tuesday unanimously recommended councilmembers adopt the plan with several modifications. The DSP is scheduled to go before the town council Thursday, Sept. 11, and Thursday, Sept. 18.

Following the same approval process as the general plan, the DSP draft required approval with or without recommendations by the planning commission before it could be presented to the town council. Even though the planning commission’s review ended, residents can still comment on the draft and have comments taken into consideration by councilmembers.

Several of the modifications recommended by planning commissioners addressed Union Pacific Railroad letters to the town stating its formal position on the DSP in relation to railroad properties in the downtown commercial core.

Specifically, UP is concerned with:

— Jurisdictional issues

— Public parks, parking lots and interim zoning issues

— Development at the Old Mill site

— Railroad zone issues

— Pedestrian crossing and the town’s memorandum of agreement with UP

— Bicycle path plans

— and land use and zoning designations associated with the downtown Truckee Fire Protection District station house

UP’s largest concern revolves around development of 300 homes and 250 lodging units at the Old Mill site, which the railroad owns.

“They (UP) are concerned about creating the image of the mill site accommodating residential development and they are also concerned about a lodging facility there,” Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook said.

Last week, town officials responded to UP’s concerns in a letter, which said the railroad’s problems with the DSP could be addressed by inserting additional language into the draft copy.

Lashbrook said the town has not received feedback from UP, but he is hoping UP will respond to the town’s letter before the Sept. 18 regular town council meeting.

“My impression is that UP is going to move slow on selling the mill site,” he said. “To assume something is going to be built on the property in the next few years, based on the response we are getting from UP, is risky.”

The mill site – located slightly east of Commercial Row adjacent the Truckee-Tahoe Lumber Co. – is an infill development area owned by UP. Proponents of Measure M, an initiative to amend Truckee’s general plan regarding development at Planned Community 2, contend the mill site is one of four infill areas where development could occur.

Mountain Area Preservation Foundation President Stefanie Olivieri is confident development at the mill site will happen, despite UP’s letter. It might not, however, be in the form of housing or commercial space, she said.

“I think it’s a lot of saber rattling, myself,” Olivieri said. “The bulk of the property owned by the railroad is not the most desirable property to build on – it’s noisy and the number of trains going by now makes doing business there a little more difficult.

“The (mill site lands) make excellent parks, bike trails and parking areas.”

And there are many other areas in the downtown area to accommodate the housing and lodging units should UP insist the DSP land and permitted uses at the mill site be amended, Olivieri said.

For example housing units can be located on West River and South River streets, in the Hilltop area and north of Jibboom Street. Lodging units might be situated in the Hilltop area, on the south side of West River Street or at the Barsell lot, adjacent to Sierra Mountain Cemetery, Olivieri said.

Dale Creighton, a Truckee engineer who is working on the proposed Boca Sierra Estates development at PC-2, said UP’s letter affects several goals – a pedestrian-friendly environment coordinated with the downtown historic nature – of the DSP.

“It is a major shift in the philosophy that the DSP was based on ,” Creighton said. “The basic premise of the plan is now in question.

“I don’t see how (the town) can continue on with the plan.”

Bob Tamietti, member of Community Alliance for a Responsible Environment and Economy for Truckee, said with development at the mill site up in the air, keeping options open for development in other areas is essential.

“We should be keeping our options open,” Tamietti said. “UP’s response to the DSP indicates the mill site is not going to be a walk in the park in terms of development.”

With Measure M possibly eliminating commercial development at PC-2, U’s grip on the mill site and development on hold at PC-3, located west of the Truckee-Tahoe Airport, until the Highway 267 Bypass is completed, the only area left for commercial development in Truckee will be at PC-1 near the Teichert property, Tamietti said.

“(UP’s letter) illustrates to me why it is foolish to torpedo development at PC-2, particularly because it is the only development north of Interstate 80,” Tamietti said. “PC-3 can’t be developed until the bypass construction is finished and the mill site is up in the air, the only place where there can be commercial development within the next few years is PC-1.”

The DSP implements the general plan within the Downtown Study Area – located within town limits and covering about one square mile. Interstate 80 marks the northern boundary, while the Truckee River, Hilltop area and the Placer County line make up the southern boundary.

Town Planner Elizabeth Eddins said the the town’s general plan accommodates a substantial amount of projected growth in the downtown study area, and the DSP contains policies, plans, projects and implementation plans to help preserve Truckee’s mountain character as that growth occurs.

Volume one of the DSP, called the Existing Conditions Report, inventories the downtown area’s business and economic climate since 1995.

Policies and Programs, volume two, sets the policy framework addressing long-term problems in the downtown area, and outlines several improvement projects, including a redevelopment agency and parking district. The volume also includes an “implementation matrix” for each improvement and possible funding mechanisms for each.

Volume three, called the Zoning Ordinance, contains land-use designations and design standards for proposed development. The section primarily addresses how private development will implement the DSP through site and building design.

The environmental impact report is addressed in volume four, and was prepared to fulfill the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. Specifically, it identifies the potential affects development could have on the local environment and the coinciding mitigation measures for those impacts.

Completing the DSP marks the culmination of nearly two years of work involving residents and business owners, town officials and town staff. The process also involved a large amount of volunteer work by the Downtown Citizens’ Advisory Committee, which met weekly to provide policy direction.


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