Hilltop proposal clears first major hurdle
A master plan to transform Truckees historic Hilltop received a passing grade Tuesday by the Truckee Planning Commission, which endorsed the ambitious mixed-use project.Now, only the Truckee Town Councils approval is needed before the group of owners can introduce specific plans to build on the 57-acre site. Plans call for residential development, commercial use, a hotel and a park that focuses on the Hilltops significant history as a center of outdoor winter sports in the Sierra. During a marathon special meeting Tuesday evening, planning commissioners listened to the concerns of neighbors, and tackled unresolved issues over the development that overlooks downtown. The commission recommended a few changes to town council, which is scheduled to consider the project next month.But the master plans approval is really just the beginning for the Hilltop project, with each of the projects individual components returning to the planning commission and council for approval before ground can be broken.We may not see anybody come back with specific projects for years, said Dale Creighton of SCO Planning andamp; Engineering. But [passing the master plan] gets the property owners the same rights as the rest of the property owners in the downtown area.Representatives of the development, members of the public, commissioners, and town staff vetted issues ranging from historic preservation to traffic concerns over the course of the five-hour meeting, and eventually reached some conclusions.
A number of the Hilltop projects neighbors expressed concerns with the traffic it is expected to generate, and over the potential danger of converting the L intersection of Ponderosa Drive and Palisades Drive into a T intersection.Density is so big its going to have issues, said Andrew Esler, one of the projects neighbors. My house is right at the end of Ponderosa Drive and I dont believe the intersection is safe.But Gordon Shaw with LSC Transportation consultants, who conducted a traffic study for the proposed project, said the numbers indicate the intersection is safe.Hilltop would add about 16 car trips an hour to the intersection, Shaw said.Only two accidents were reported at the intersection in five years, making it statistically safer than similar intersections throughout California, he said.All together, the project will add roughly 4,900 car trips to local streets, or about six cars a minute at peak hours, he said.
While provisions of the Hilltop master plan call for the project to preserve, restore and replicate the historic elements of the old ski hill, some questioned the historical integrity of the ski slope itself.Plans call for development around the bottom of the slope, relocating historic structures upward into a Hilltop park.My understanding is this is one of the first ski hills in the state not the 10th, not the fifth, said Planning Commissioner Kurt Reinkens. I think when you look at a ski hill, its not just the top, its the whole thing.Creighton said over the years structures such as the rope tow may have already been moved from their original locations, and in the end, the commission agreed that the plans represented a good compromise for historic preservation.