Housing highlighted in General Plan debate | SierraSun.com

Housing highlighted in General Plan debate

Truckee residents want the town to diversify into a tech, health care and education economy; limit growth by raising planning standards; and increase density while giving incentives to developers that plan affordable housing projects, according to comment at Thursday’s General Plan update meeting.

As part of the meeting, citizens, councilmembers, and commissioners weighed in on how they want Truckee to develop in the coming decades. The General Plan is the town’s guiding document for progress and planned development. The current 1996 General Plan has been deemed outdated, and continuing workshops are part of the process of updating it.

Thursday’s meeting looked at growth management, traffic, housing and economic development – five areas that attending individuals discussed in separate groups.

Growth management was the first topic discussed, and although there was consensus that growth must be checked, Workforce Housing Association of Truckee Tahoe President Breeze Cross wondered what effect stinting growth would have on affordability.

“[Growth management] may exacerbate the lack of affordability in the housing market,” he said. “It may preclude us from receiving the benefit that new development may bring.”

A picture of future growth direction became clear as councilmembers and commissioners voiced their opinions.

Growth should not be capped, but rather shaped through a series of performance standards, they said. Affordability must be made feasible with incentives, density bonuses and a mandatory minimum density.

“A minimum density is just as important as maximum density,” said councilmember Craig Threshie. “We are losing way too much valuable land in projects that are not in keeping with our General Plan.”

Planning Commission member Nikki Riley agreed, noting that of the many projects she has seen, “nine out of 10 are down-zoned.”

Denser development would help in making housing affordable, but the town needs more incentives to entice developers to create these neighborhoods, town officials agreed. Planning Commission member Robie Wilson Litchfield supported a jobs-housing linkage program that forces large employers to help provide housing for the employees they attract.

“I think that the resort industry needs to take responsibility for the symptoms they cause,” she said.

Other town officials were less enthusiastic, noting that such a program might scare away the businesses that the town is seeking to attract.

Traffic was another major theme taken up at the meeting. The public and town officials overwhelmingly rejected suggestions that Donner Pass Road could be widened to four lanes to alleviate traffic in the Gateway shopping area. Donner Pass Road currently fails town standards for traffic during certain times.

“That’s the downtown of Truckee whether we call it that or not,” said Planning Commission member Paul Leyton. “We have to decide what we want our downtown to look like.”

A popular alternative is to create a Pioneer Trail and Bridge Street extension that would connect the Tahoe Donner subdivision with the Gateway area and the 267 Bypass, pulling traffic off Donner Pass Road.

Mayor Josh Susman expressed disappointment that a connection of Deerfield Drive to create an alternative to Donner Pass Road was not mentioned as a possible solution to the traffic overload.

“I think that it was a disservice not to have the Deerfield Connector as a primary discussion point,” he said.

The discussion on economic development brought up the most long-range plans for the town, including suggestions that the town attract a college, enhance health care services to serve the region, and diversify into tech and telecommunications markets.

Becoming more of a tourist destination by increasing lodging and other amenities was slightly more controversial, but many agreed that it would be a way to attract consumers and business for a longer period of time.

The General Plan update meetings continue, with the next scheduled for Jan. 15, 2004 at 6 p.m. The workshop will focus on land use alternatives.

For more information on the General Plan Update process go to http://www.truckee2025.org.

General Plan Update Process

What is the General Plan?

The General Plan is the town’s guiding document for long-term physical development. It provides broad guidelines that town staff reference in making land use and development requirement decisions.

Why is the Plan being updated?

The current General Plan was developed in 1996. The town’s strong growth has made an updated plan necessary to address new concerns.

Where are we in the update process?

The two-year update process began in February 2003. The process is in the second and final phase. The workshops will continue until March 2004, and the updated plan is expected to be adopted by December 2004.

What are the major issues addressed by the update?

Land use, development, traffic, housing and economic development are the major issues being updated.

What is the public’s role in the update?

The workshops are designed to accept and weigh public input. The public plays a critical role in informing town officials of their concerns and opinions on the long-term growth and development of Truckee.

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