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Industrial relocation is key to river plan

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunBob Sutton, longtime river front property owner, points to his property.
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Everyone has different ideas about what to do with Bob Sutton’s river front property, and it takes only one glance across his land to the rushing water of the Truckee River to understand why.

“Where else could you find a view like this with a park that will be here forever?” asked Sutton as he surveyed a green strip of Truckee River Regional Park that rolls down to the water across the river from his property.

In the 33 years Sutton has operated his asphalt paving company from the 982 feet of river frontage on East River Street, the land’s zoning has been governed by a handful of plans: county general plan, town general plan, and a downtown specific plan.



Sutton now faces yet another plan ” the Downtown River Revitalization Plan, which was adopted on Tuesday by the Truckee Town Council and the planning commission. While not a regulatory blueprint, the river plan lays out a strategy for shaping the character of the downtown portion of the Truckee River.

A chief aim of the plan is to encourage businesses like Sutton’s paving company to relocate to another part of town and allow recreation, retail, residential and commercial redevelopment along the river. But for this redevelopment strategy to be successful the town must make it feasible ” both physically and economically ” for these businesses to move.



Sutton said he realizes that the “highest and best use” of his river front land is not to continue as a construction yard, and he has contemplated taking advantage of the residential designation on his property by making it available for home building.

“Ever since I owned [the land] I knew someday it would be a desirable place to be,” Sutton said.

But relocating his paving business has its challenges.

“There’s no light industrial land available that is affordable,” Sutton said. “What land there is ” the prices are sky high.”

The town has been busy tackling these issues, making sure that projects like the Pioneer Commerce Center expand the inventory of industrial space in town so businesses do have an option if they choose to relocate. And Truckee officials have committed to giving a financial hand to businesses willing to move away from the river.

A recently acquired state grant will go toward that purpose, as could redevelopment funds, said Tony Lashbrook, Truckee town manager.

This comes as welcome news to property owners who in past years had few options other than to stay put on the river.

“That has been a problem for years and that is why people are where they are ” the lack of industrial space,” said Eric Sutton, Bob Sutton’s son, and vice president of the company. “Affordable housing is a big issue but so is affordable industrial land.”

As property owners along the river, Eric Sutton said his company realizes the importance of protecting the river, and has even leased railroad land across East River Street to hold their heavy equipment.

“The river is an asset that needs to be preserved, and we realize that,” he said.

But longtime property owners that now pay little or nothing for their spots on the river will need some help to make the decision to move.

“That will be a critical part of this plan ” how they address people that have to relocate,” Eric Sutton said.

Meanwhile, town officials are hopeful that a combination of increasing industrial space, financial incentives and some coaxing will help revamp the portions of the river dominated by industrial yards. And the river revitalization plan is an integral guide to the transformation that has been slow in coming.

“With all the stuff that has been developed in town, the river corridor hasn’t changed that much,” Lashbrook said.


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