Is Truckee all grown up? | SierraSun.com

Is Truckee all grown up?

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun file photoA construction crew works on a house in Old Greenwood in 2007. Construction permit numbers have dropped off in the last few years.

TRUCKEE ” The Town of Truckee’s annual Community Development Report is out, and growth has slowed to a crawl.

The decline in growth accelerated in 2008 as demonstrated by building permits issued for residential projects, going from 326 in 2006 to 200 in 2007 and finally only 56 last year.

“With both residential and commercial projects, they’re finishing up what they started a few years ago, but nobody is starting anything new,” said Town Planner Duane Hall. “We do not see much in the pipeline.”

And while commercial work had been doing slightly better in the past, the numbers are catching up.

“We’re seeing a surplus in inventory,” Hall said. “Residential and commercial are starting to pull even.”

But this leaves local government some time to focus on public projects, Hall said.

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“This summer you are going to see a lot of projects, like paving phase 2 of the Legacy Trail, the Community Center, and some roundabout construction,” Hall said.

Town staff will also have long-term planning to work on, like large developments Joerger Ranch, Coldstream Canyon, and the Railyard, which continue to move forward despite the economy, Hall said.

John Eaton, president of the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, said he hopes public projects like roads and trails will create jobs and improve infrastructure.

“Trails will be a very good thing in the long term,” Eaton said.

According to the Community Development Report, Truckee is at 26 percent of the town’s affordable housing goal, but that represents a 160 percent increase in deed-restricted affordable housing over the last eight years.

And while the town can’t completely control the rate of growth for affordable housing ” instead working with developers as they build new projects ” the town has done a lot to promote affordable housing, said John McLaughlin, community development director.

“What we do control is the amount of land available for that type of housing, and we do that ” clearly we meet those requirements.”

John Falk, chair of the town’s Housing Advisory Work Group and lobbyist for the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors, said the town is actually ahead of many other California municipalities.

“The fact that they are able to show any progress should be applauded,” Falk said. “It’s really a massive job and probably one of the worst times to ask a government entity to do more.”

Eaton, also on the Housing Advisory Work Group, commended the town’s progress as well.

“We’ll be working on developing new funding streams for affordable housing,” Eaton said. “We’ve been relying on development, which doesn’t get us ahead, it just keeps us from falling further behind.”

McLaughlin said he was optimistic about finding funding for public projects after the state’s successful bond sale.

“In the past once-a-year visitors saw changes in new residential and commercial buildings,” Hall said. “Now they’ll see new roads, parks and trails.”

McLaughlin predicted real estate sales of existing homes will be the first to rebound locally, followed by the more costly proposition of new construction.

Falk agreed.

“When I look at Truckee and the region I think it’s reasonable to believe the price correction is at or near completion, which is to say if we haven’t reached the bottom, we are really close,” Falk said. “As credit becomes more available combined with property in our region always being undervalued, that should swing the market upward again.”

But just as the Truckee-Tahoe area was slower to be hit by the downturn, Falk said it will be slower to return.

Looking towards completion of growth, Truckee is at 61 percent of buildout for residential, and 67.9 percent for nonresidential, according to the annual report.