Potential sale of Truckee Vets Hall on hold

Margaret Moran
Margaret Moran / Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. — The potential sale of the Veterans Hall Building overlooking downtown Truckee has been put on hold until additional review and analysis can be completed.

The Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District board of directors voted at a special meeting Tuesday night to table the matter after hearing public testimony mostly in favor of expanding the building’s uses, while keeping the Veterans Hall open to the public.

“When the rec. district bought this building or this property for $1 (in 1994), they were looking for additional recreation space,” said Truckee resident Ruth Jackson Hall. “They actually inherited more than a recreational space. This building just has a lot of value and significance for so many people.”

A suggestion that gained traction with the nearly 100-member audience was returning property ownership to the Washoe Tribe, an idea first proposed at last Thursday’s regular TDRPD board meeting.

“We’re a group of Washoe who wish to return to this region,” said Lydell Wyatt, a member of the Wel Mel Ti Council, a northern branch of the Washoe Tribe, Tuesday night. “… With this building, I think it’s possible for our first step to return. With that said, we would like to also archive our history, perhaps in this building.

“Maybe we can fill that void that Truckee’s history has been waiting for.”

Truckee resident Michael Rogers, adviser to the Wel Mel Ti Council, advocated for returning the site to its prior inhabitants.

“The Wel Mel Ti are the missing part of Truckee’s heart,” he said. “They were here for over 10,000 years in this spot. … I believe it can be for us to return this to them.”

Other community suggestions for the facility included turning it into a museum, making it into a creative hub and keeping it for future recreational need — along with Tahoe Forest Church’s original request to occupy it.

According to the district, the church notified the TDRPD of its interest in renting the Veterans Hall in November 2011, but after learning that parking improvements costing approximately $150,000 to $200,000 are needed as part of obtaining a conditional use permit, members approached the district in July 2012 with the idea of purchasing the facility.

“There’s been a lot of concern tonight and a lot people voicing their opinion that if this sale takes place, it’s over, or you’re going to lose an asset or the public can no longer use this building — nothing could be further from the truth,” Tahoe Forest Church member Jason LaChance said Tuesday. “This church has always had an open door policy, no matter what, and they will always have that policy.”

Several community members urged that the board hold off on selling the facility — which is accruing an annual loss of about $20,000 and seeing a steady decline in users since 2009, according to TDRPD — until a community group can be formed to look at all options and make suggestions to the district.

“It’s obvious to me that hindsight is always better than foresight, that probably the idea of selling this and having cash in hand, as I said, was probably a little hasty,” said board director Peter Werbel. “… It’s obvious to me tonight that that there are many potential uses for this building, there’s a lot of emotion, a lot of history.”

Some directors stated that more time is needed to do additional research and gather public input in order to make a final decision.

“Please be here for the long haul,” urged director Janet Brady. “Don’t just be here for the immediate meeting because we need a solution that continues to keep our community health and vibrant, and Truckee a great place to live.”

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