Election 2014: Truckee Town Council candidates sound off
October 8, 2014
TRUCKEE, Calif. — Affordable housing, town services and local development proposals were among topics discussed by five candidates running for the Truckee Town Council at a political forum Thursday night at Town Hall.
Mark Brown (incumbent), Patrick Flora (incumbent), Carolyn Wallace Dee (incumbent), Morgan Goodwin and Jamie Brimer are vying for three, four-year seats in the Nov. 4 election.
Below is a sampling of some of their comments given at the forum in front of roughly 30 people, presented in random order:
Regarding affordable housing…
Goodwin: The facts (are) there's 397 affordable housing units in Truckee, which are occupied, and 321 more people looking into those. There's clearly a demand. The jobs-housing link that I believe the town has ceased to follow is an important thing to bring back. Development like Gray's Crossing was supposed to and agreed to build affordable housing and didn't. I would like to see follow-up on that. I think that it's important for the town to take this issue seriously and hold the people who want to develop in this town to a higher standard because this is a desirable community to live.
Brown: Affordable housing is something that is so crucial in this area. We have some of the larger homes that are unoccupied that we need to actually work with our development code to make sure that we can build extra units within them. We have a huge need. I know we have a lot of the two-, three- and four-bedroom homes. We don't have any one-bedroom units where the majority of our people who are looking for affordable housing need … That's something that we need to bring forward, back for our planning commission and with the workforce housing group.
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Flora: Affordable housing is a topic that's been discussed in countless committees for a good long while. Currently the only part of our community that is really mandated to address it is the development community. I think that's a fair solution, but I don't think that should be the only solution. It's really a community-wide problem; it's not just development driven. It's across all the spectrums. With the loss of redevelopment, the town lost a number of programs that allowed us to help address some of those issues, so I think we really need to involve the rest of the community and find some solutions that brings everybody in the community to solve it.
Wallace Dee: (It's) a critical issue in this community where it is expensive to live and something we all need to really look at. I think there are some options and some of them have been brought up and that's looking at secondary units in existing homes … there are some market priced housing right now that would qualify price-wise into the program, but they haven't been brought into the program; those types of things can be looked at, examined, see if there's a way to tie them into our low income housing and put those into the program and help people find those houses. …
Brimer: In fact one of my daughters — her and her husband and family — live in one of the affordable units. They are in an industrial (area). One of the drawbacks to something like that is … there is a lot of noise that happens in the evening time and in the morning with deliveries, so that's one of the downsides to it. The other is for the developer for the cost involved. One of the alternatives I would like to investigate if elected would be helping to cut the fees on taking secondary units or where somebody could build a unit above their garage … Right now it runs about $10,000, $12,000 before you even put one nail in one board. I'd like to see a partial moratorium or a cutback on those fees and make it possible.
Regarding a needed town service…
Brown: I think one of the things that we are very fortunate to have is a community that is very involved in recycling. I think that's going to be crucial … Trying to put zero waste into our landfills. I see the trucks going out Lockwood all the time and just filling up the canyon out there with more garbage. If we can recycle more, I think that's going to be a good project.
Flora: I was actually trying to think of a service that we don't provide that we really could use. I think there are a number of areas, but you asked for one, so I'll go with something that we can probably improve on … The transportation that we have is under-utilized within not only Truckee but within the basin. Most of that is largely funded by federal and state grants, not a lot of general fund dollars are involved in it. I think we really need to push to get more awareness, greater ridership, greater connectivity, not only within Truckee but within the region.
Wallace Dee: Since transportation is truly my love, I'm going to have to jump on that one. Transportation is a problem here only because you can't get to it … I would love to take a bus; it's four miles from my home to the closet bus. Whether it's through federal grants, private grants, public involvement, private drivers, we need to find a way to pay for (a) transportation system and expand it.
Brimer: I tried thinking of something else rather than transportation and improving it, but that is what I had written down as something that needs to be improved on and to be able to offer more services, especially during the winter months for skiers to the different areas. As far as how it would be funded, again, through grants, through monthly passes and areas like that.
Goodwin: I have been intrigued by the idea of ways that the town can actually contribute to reinventing our library … The version that I have imagined (is) … seeing libraries providing not just books and information resources, but actually tools — 3D printers, welding shops that allow people to teach themselves skills and share creativity and present those and display those. It's commonly called a makers space.
Regarding proposed development projects…
Brimer: … Having the Pollard Station continue and have that advance, so senior housing is very, very important … We're all going to get old someday and possibly need it.
Goodwin: … To list off a few positions, Pollard Station is an area of town that certainly, if developed, would add to the pedestrian downtown area. In accessibility, I would want to see better accessibility up and down the hill to the river. I'm concerned about seniors being asked to move up and down the hill to the river, especially in the wintertime, as well as the lack of affordable housing as a part of that project. I think it's worth underscoring the fact that Canyon Springs is maybe the most controversial development the town has faced in recent history, and it should be seen as such and really debated as such and not seen as a done deal going forward because there are some very serious concerns with it.
Brown: Development is very key to a large, vibrant town like ours. Canyon Springs … needs to be debated. They just released their EIR again on different issues. We need to look at that carefully to make sure that residents in Glenshire are not adversely impacted … Pollard Station has been around. It's been looked at and talked about. You know, I have a good friend of mine who had to move down to Reno just because he couldn't find housing here. To get affordable housing for seniors is paramount. We need to bring that forward for everybody so they can stay here in the mountains. Grocery Outlet, they have their own style of people that like to use that store, and I think they've done … their homework to bring forward a good project. I'd like to make sure it doesn't impact the wetlands in the area.
Flora: The town is not in the development business. The town is really in the land use business — that's what the town's core responsibility is, is to make sure that as development comes into the town, does it comply with the general plan, does it comply with the development code, is it going to benefit the community at large? I'm not sure if we want to be in the development business and prioritize one over another, although we obviously have a number of big developments. We've got the Railyard going in; PC-3; Canyon Springs; Pollard Station; Bright property, Truckee Springs. There's a lot on the plate right now, and it's really imperative for the council to do what we are tasked with, which is (to) look out for the community as a whole, but not be an obstacle to those developers, just make sure they are complying with the rules that we have and the community will.
Wallace Dee: Smart development and growth is important to the health of any community, but I underline the word smart. It's been said that it's not up to us to be developers, and absolutely I agree with that. We need to be sure that we are adhering to the general plan set forth by this town, … that the development is good for what is happening in town, complies with our long-range plans and it brings the community together, not separates it.