All eyes on Dec. 1 for next steps with controversial Truckee development
After 9 hours of public meetings Monday and Tuesday before the Truckee Planning Commission, the community, the developer and environmental conservation groups will have to wait until Dec. 1 for more deliberation on the Canyon Springs project. The Sierra Sun will continue to cover this story in the coming weeks; be sure to look to future editions of the newspaper for more commentary and reaction from this week’s meetings.
TRUCKEE, Calif. — While the Truckee Planning Commission tries to come to decision regarding a proposed residential development at the eastern edge of town, community members continue to urge the group to reject the project.
In a 5-0 vote Tuesday evening, after roughly five hours of clarifying questions, the commission decided to adjourn the hearing on Canyon Springs and continue it at a 6 p.m. Dec. 1 special meeting.
“I think that gives us not too much time to forget, but time to continue review, deliberate and determine if we are going for a vote on that night, or if we are asking for changes,” commission chair Seth Kielas said.
The commission’s ruling came after hearing presentations from both town staff and the project applicant, along with nearly 70 individual public comments Monday evening.
Of all the commenters, only two spoke in favor of the development that outlines 203 single family lots to be built out in phases on a roughly 284-acre plot of land near the Glenshire subdivision, a portion of which will be preserved for open space and public trails.
“I think (those involved with the project) have done an extremely fine job of developing the type of subdivision that will really aid this town as we develop further and further,” said Truckee resident Jim Hood, one of roughly 300 people in attendance at Monday’s hearing at Truckee Town Hall. “I think it’s a very responsible plan that meets all the requirements for affordable housing, open space and so forth.”
Many others, however, disagree.
“During the General Plan update process, we made it clear that our vision for the future was a vision without sprawl,” said Rolf Godon, Truckee resident. “A vision that embraced the preservation of open space, with a focus on development in the town core. … Unfortunately, this project flies in the face of all that hard work.”
EVIDENCE OF FINDINGS
During Tuesday’s rebuttal by project applicant Canyon Springs Joint Venture, its attorney, Whit Manley, said that interpretation of the town’s 2025 General Plan is subjective.
“The general plan is aspirational in character and contains policies,” said Manley, with the firm Remy Moose Manley LLP, which specializes in CEQA and land use law. “People interpret those policies differently. … We think the project is consistent with the general plan.”
Specially, he cited that the project respects sensitive drainage corridors by not building on them and establishing setbacks along with clustering development to limit overall site impact.
Yet, others argue the project area also contains sensitive wildlife corridors and habitat, particularly for the Loyalton-Truckee mule deer herd.
“(The Unreins) have captured hundreds of photos showing diverse wildlife species utilizing the site for their home, foraging habituate, fawning and most importantly undisturbed migration pathways in the spring and fall,” said Jennifer Goldberg, who spoke on behalf of Glenshire residents Rodney and Karen Unrein. “… Please take into consideration what development will do to this habitat.
“You cannot restore wildlife corridors once they are gone.”
To this, David Early, with PlaceWorks, formerly known as The Planning Center | DC&E, the preparer of the environmental review document, responded: “We do have … data from folks in the audience here and who commented on the (Environmental Impact Report), who said (from) their experience that there are many more deer on site than our biologist identified when they did a site visit. We don’t have a way to confirm or deny that.”
Denyelle Nishimori, planning manager for the town of Truckee, added that PlaceWorks did consider data provided by California Department of Fish and Wildlife, past deer analysis for the property and general knowledge of deer migratory paths to come to its finding regarding the herd.
“They don’t deny that this property is used by deer, but in their opinion, and what’s the evidence in the record, there wasn’t sufficient information for them to say that this sample size that’s been identified is significant,” she said.
That, along with a similar conclusion in other areas of study, raised another popular concern among the public — the adequacy of the EIR.
VERY LITTLE SUBSTANCE?
Released Oct. 28, the final EIR on Canyons Springs concludes the project will not create any significant unavoidable environmental impacts and that all potential impacts are either less than significant or can be mitigated to less than significant.
“It has lots of words, but very little substance,” said Glenshire residence Doug Coulter. “One of the words that they use a lot is less than significant. That’s just not true.”
Aside from the aforementioned wildlife concerns, the public also found fault with the EIR’s rulings on traffic, greenhouse gases, expansive soils and cumulative impacts.
“You don’t hire a good firm like this, devote five years to an EIR process and come up with an EIR that’s just the worst ever,” Manley said. “That’s not a credible thing to say.”
Those concerns, along with other issues raised by the public and environmental groups Mountain Area Preservation and SOS Glenshire, were reflected in the commission’s questions Tuesday to town staff, the applicant and consultants.
“I think from my perspective, we have plenty of information, so really my thought was a matter of having adequate time to review that information,” said commissioner David Tirman, explaining his reason for a continuation.
The special meeting on Dec. 1 at Truckee Town Hall will be a continuation of this week’s meeting, meaning no additional public comment will be taken. Instead, commissioners are expected to deliberate.
Should the commission not come to a decision then, there will be time for it to continue and vote on the matter at its regular scheduled Dec. 15 meeting.
The commission has 30 days from Nov. 16 — the first day of Canyon Springs public hearing — to come to a decision regarding the project, said Andy Morris, attorney for the town of Truckee.
It will serve as the final decision-maker regarding the Canyon Springs development, unless an appeal to its decision is filed with Truckee Town Council.
Under that scenario, town council would review the project, with its action being the town’s final action. Any additional action would have to occur in court.