Longtime professor joins the planning commission | SierraSun.com

Longtime professor joins the planning commission

Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra Sun

Bob Johnston made the jump from land-use professor to local land-use decision maker Wednesday.

After 34 years of teaching land planning and environmental impact assessment at U.C. Davis, Johnston became Truckee’s newest planning commissioner when he was sworn at Wednesday’s commission meeting.

The planning commission, which is composed of a member appointed by each town council member, makes final decisions on some planning applications and recommends action on more complex projects to the town council. Johnston was appointed by Councilwoman Barbara Green.

A self-proclaimed “citizen activist” in his 25 years in Davis, Johnston said he will emphasize long-range planning in his role in Truckee government; the same motives that caused him to become involved in Davis’ development.

“I tend to look out 50 and 100 years,” said Johnston. “Pretty much nobody does that.”

Johnston said that the town should consider launching a long-range strategic planning study in anticipation of buildout, to explore how the town should approach growth after all the readily developable land is used.

This study could look at different options, he said, including stopping growth, annexing land for growth, growing eastward or northward, or increasing density.

In Truckee, where he has lived for the past 13 years, Johnston sees several incredible opportunities and a great challenge over the course of the next two or three years.

The railyard site east of downtown purchased last year by Holliday development, is “an opportunity to do something truly great,” said Johnston.

He is also excited about the Truckee River revitalization, a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to get industrial and heavy commercial uses off of the river and replace them with hotel, residential or commercial development.

There is, however, a big challenge looming.

“I think the biggest challenge in the next few years is going to be doing the affordable housing ordinance,” said Johnston.

Green said that Johnston’s experience and approachability will make him a good commissioner.

“His advice to the council will be very thorough and well thought out,” said Green, who has known him for 12 years.

Green said his concern about the end-result of the town’s growth will be balanced by an understanding of the impacts that growth management could have on the economy and the building industry.

After years of running urban models, advising transportation authorities, and publishing planning papers, Johnston will now have his hand in shaping Truckee’s development, one project at a time.

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