Jibboom Street project draws criticism from neighbors
Although its fate is far from sealed, a commercial and residential project proposed for Jibboom and High streets has drawn quite a bit of controversy from area residents, even though it hasn’t been to the planning commission yet.
The plan originally included nine homes along High Street, but after discussions with neighbors, the developer reduced that number to two. Now, two Historic Preservation Advisory Committee meetings later, the developer is once again proposing the original nine houses, along with the commercial component of the project, said Associate Planner Heidi Scoble.
“We knocked off seven houses and no one ever acknowledged it, no one cared,” said Tom Watson, representative of the developer. Watson said he’s currently looking at all of his options regarding the residential portion of the project, and hasn’t ruled out anything yet.
Citing 50-year-old photos and California Environmental Quality Act guidelines – along with their own personal preferences – High Street area homeowners tried to convince the developer and local government that the houses proposed for the hill between Jibboom Street and High Street were inappropriate for the neighborhood.
The proposed development – the McManus/Horst Project – includes approximately 17,044 square feet of commercial space, transforming an old motel on Jibboom and Bridge streets into a restaurant, and two homes.
Discussions by neighborhood residents at the April 9 HPAC meeting focused primarily on the proposed residences.
“We left two that had the least impact on the neighborhood,” Mike Mason, principle architect of MWA Architects, said at the meeting.
The central element of the proposal is the commercial space on Jibboom Street, made up of five buildings, but the two houses on the hillside drew the most controversy.
One resident said the two houses looked like they belong in the suburbs, another called them “tract homes.”
“We’re trying to be sensitive to the neighborhood that’s already there,” Mason said. “[The houses] are definitely not tract homes. They’re definitely two different designs.”
One High Street resident said she enjoys her view of downtown’s “funkitecture,” and doesn’t want to look at lots of new rooflines.
“It all part of Truckee,” said resident Ruth Hall. “It’s what’s been here since I’ve lived here for 25 years. Those are brand new things, why would I want to see a brand new roof?”
Mountain Area Preservation Foundation President Stephanie Olivieri encouraged the developer to pursue housing, but to include it in the Jibboom Street development in the “spirit of mixed-use” – a zoning definition, which allows both commercial and residential spaces in a particular area.
“Once the character of that street is changed, it’s changed forever,” said Tonya Beyer, a High Street neighborhood resident.
Of the people who showed up to the meeting, many commented that the hillside between Jibboom and High streets has historically acted as a buffer zone between a residential area and a commercial area, and that it should remain open space.
“Let a little bit of green exist,” said Patricia Stanley, a former neighborhood resident.
But the development of houses on High Street would be advantageous to the neighborhood, Watson said. If the originally-proposed nine houses are built, approximately one-quarter of a million dollars would be spent on sidewalk and civic improvements along High Street, something that won’t happen if the houses aren’t built.
After the April 9 meeting and a special HPAC meeting on April 15, the developer will go back to HPAC with plans for the original nine homes on High Street, Scoble said.
At this Wednesday’s meeting, which occurred after the Sierra Sun deadline, the committee was expected to review the nine homes. Scoble said a review of the commercial component of the development has been postponed until May 14 to give the architects time to assemble a model. The model will help HPAC determine the appropriateness of the structures’ materials.
Scoble added that she’s never seen this level of public participation at this phase of a project’s approval, and that the historic review will take longer than expected.
“It’s going to be going on until at least the end of May, and then it goes to the planning commission,” Scoble said.
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