Hilltop Plan to get vetting by town
August 8, 2005
A plan that outlines large commercial and residential development on the hill overlooking downtown Truckee will be reviewed by the Truckee Planning Commission on Wednesday.The commission will not make a decision on the Hilltop Master Plan, which remains unpopular with many neighbors despite more than four years of revisions. Their comments will be sent on to the Truckee Town Council, which is scheduled to review the project in September.Several controversial issues that have the potential to derail the Hilltop plan are scheduled to be discussed by the planning commission. The first is the addition of a 27-acre parcel on the southern end of the project that was not initially slated to be part of the master plan.John Eaton, president of Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, said that he is opposed to the amount of commercial development and the addition of the southern parcel that places development across the entire 61 acres.”Basically it is spreading all over the area,” Eaton said. “It is sprawling all over the place.”The commercial sector of Hilltop, which is 40,000 square feet larger than what was outlined in Truckee’s Downtown Specific Plan, should be cut down so it caters to the residents living at Hilltop and does not become a large attraction for visitors, Eaton said.”That’s huge,” he said of the commercial square footage. “It sounds like they are trying to develop another development like [the Village at Squaw Valley].”That parcel was part of an eight lot subdivision approved by the planning commission one year ago. Only two home were allowed to be built on the acreage according to the earlier approval.Now the property has been folded into the proposed Hilltop Master Plan, which plans to put 19 homes on the parcel by transferring development rights from other areas of the Hilltop plan.Transferring development rights from one parcel to another has never been done in town before, said Heidi Burns, an associate planner with the town.Andrew Esler, who owns a home on Ponderosa Drive, said he can’t believe that the land abutting his property, which is zoned to have one house per five acres, is being planned to hold 19 homes on a 27-acre parcel.”I actually bought that house because it was [zoned] one house per five acres behind us,” Esler said.The fact that the undeveloped land was counted as open space during the planning commission’s approval of the eight lot subdivision one year ago, and now is being counted as part of the open space for the Hilltop Master Plan, is deceptive, Esler said.”They’re double-dipping. They are declaring it open space for one parcel and they are calling it open space for another parcel,” he said. “They are using land that is not really available to them.”The traffic and density of the project also worries Esler, he said.”How much suburbia does Truckee really need in one hit?” he asked.A final decision on the Hilltop Master Plan is still a long way off, said Burns, especially if the planning commission and town council recommend a set of major changes with the project. The planning commission or town council could decide that the project needs an environmental impact report rather than the mitigated negative declaration that developers have planned for the project, she said.The lack of substantial lodging, which was one of the components encouraged by the town’s overall plan for downtown could also be an issue. And the amount of commercial development, which far exceeds the town’s guidelines, could be another point the commission and council decide needs revision. But Burns added that the five Hilltop property owners and the town have been working through the issues on the master plan for more than four years, and after 15 different site maps and countless revisions, the plan may not be perfect, but it is time for the developers to hear from the town decision-makers.”We have to get something to the planning commission and town council so it doesn’t linger,” Burns said.