Gray’s Crossing decision could come Nov. 4
Gray’s Crossing, Truckee’s newest large-scale development, is one step away from approval.
The second Truckee Planning Commission hearing Wednesday went as expected. Although there was minimal public comment, the meeting lasted a grueling 5 1/2 hours as commissioners questioned developer East West Partners about the proposal.
Now it’s expected (or at least likely) the commission will approve the project at its Nov. 4 meeting, after another round of questions.
Town of Truckee staff had outlined 15 issues for the planned community-2 area – the biggest being the proposed golf course, open space and clustering, an alternative plan, trails and a development agreement. Although opposition to the plan lingers, during the evolution of the planning process East West has tweaked its proposal to address residents’ and environmental groups’ concerns.
The alternative plan and related issues
The golf course, open space and clustering seemed to go hand-in-hand during the hearing, as the four are connected to the project. While an alternative development proposal was submitted by Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, an environmental group opposed to the project in its current form, the plan eliminated key components, including the golf course. The planning commission said it would not be conducive to the project area. MAPF also proposed clustering homes more tightly in one corner of the proposed development area.
One argument was the town’s requirement for the PC-2 area – outlined in the town’s 1996 general plan – calls for a “destination recreation” resort type of development in the area. While a golf course is not required, it is one of the suggested recreation requirement.
It was noted, first by East West in a previous hearing, and by planning commission Robie WIlson-Litchfield, that clustering the residences would require an extreme clear-cut and extensive grading, an expensive and damaging prospect. The planning commission basically dismissed MAPF’s alternative proposal.
Based on this and the plan’s 400-plus acres of open space, the commission decided East West’s plan had adequate clustering and open space. The golf course, however, wasn’t agreed upon so easily.
While the commission did say the golf course could be a good use of the recreation requirement, commissioner Nikki Riley questioned East West’s proposal that the course would be private. Both she and commissioner Paul Leyton then suggested East West’s Old Greenwood development swap course access with Gray’s Crossing, because the Gray’s Crossing has a more inclusive feel and Old Greenwood has an exclusive feel.
East West said it would look into the swap, which seemed to satisfy the commissioners. The issue may be brought up at the next meeting.
Another big issue is East West’s proposal for a development agreement. The company asked the town to be vested in the project, and allow the project to have a 15-year time limit, in which any major changes to town policy would not affect the development. Additionally, East West asked to freeze the development fees at 2003 numbers for the 15 years.
In return, East West said it would give concessions back to the town, including trails, affordable housing, donated space for a middle school, open space and transit benefits. The town’s end also stipulated that half of the first two phases have to be completed within five years, or else the agreement would be up for renegotiation.
The fee freeze was quickly shot down and the development agreement turned out to be a hot topic of discussion.
“East West gets Manhattan, you get a few shiny beads,” said Truckee-resident Lance Conn. “You only enter into this agreement when you need something that you can’t get otherwise.”
The commissioners deliberated a great deal, trying to decide what was a benefit to the town. Commissioner Nancy Richards explained that an item like the middle school site – which would be implemented whether or not the town entered the development agreement – should not have been considered. However, other commissioners pointed out that the project had numerous benefits to the town, and those should be considered as benefits with the development agreement.
In addition, Truckee Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook said, “I think it would be strange, in California, to have a development of this size and not have a development agreement.”
In the end, most of the commissioners agreed the benefits were great enough for the town to enter into the agreement, minus the fee freeze.
The trail issue
While it would not seem like a controversial issue, trails were discussed at length by the planning commission. While East West has proposed to create trails through the development as well as off-site connectors to downtown Truckee and beyond, some of the commissioners felt the burden of maintenance would be too great on East West.
If East West builds the trails, it would have to maintain them and maintain insurance for them. What set the commissioners’ minds at ease, though, was that the Truckee Trails Foundation had written a letter to the town, stating that they would be interested in owning and maintaining the trails.
The next step
The broad issues have been worked out, but now the planning commission will work on the details. It is expected that at the Nov. 4 meeting, Scheduled for 6 p.m. at Town Hall, the planning commission will make its recommendation to the town council.
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