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MAPF appeals W. River boat building plans

JOHN A. BAYLESS

Progress and preservation will once again be discussed at the Dec. 18 meeting of the Truckee Town Council. A public hearing is scheduled then for an appeal filed by the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation.

MAPF filed an appeal Monday protesting the planning commission’s recent approval of expansion by Betts Enterprises, a yacht-building firm located on West River Street. MAPF President Stefanie Olivieri cited aesthetic reasons for the appeal, such as the size, colors and materials used in the new structure.

The planning commission approved the project Dec. 12. The new 240-foot long Betts building would be located on an interior lot off West River Road. Plans call for the structure to be painted blue and gray, with a total interior area of 11,814 square feet.

“We believe the project as designed and approved by the planning commission is inconsistent with the Downtown Specific Plan,” Olivieri said Monday. She said that the plans for the construction of the building conflict with the town’s expressed vision of future development along the river corridor.

“This town has indicated to its leaders that the river corridor is the greatest asset the town has,” Olivieri said. “We feel it is time to begin preserving the viewsheds and implement the Downtown Specific Plan.”

However, Olivieri specified that MAPF is not concerned with the industrial use of the building, only with aesthetic aspects that conflict with the DSP. MAPF disagrees with the length of the building, and the use of metal siding on it, in addition to the color.

“Our appeal would not change the use of the building,” she said. MAPF had expressed its concerns about the project to the planning commission in an earlier letter, which is cited in the organization’s appeal.

The owners of Betts Enterprises, James and Janise Betts, say they have done everything possible to comply with regulations in place for development on West River.

“We’ve worked with the planning commission for eight months,” Janise Betts said. “They gave us directives and we complied with all of them over and above their requests. We have complied with every ordinance and have gotten approval from the planning commission. MAPF is citing compliance issues which we have already addressed.”

She also said that the Downtown Specific Plan ordinances are not yet in place, and that the expansion of Betts Enterprises should be governed by the ordinances on the books when the project was begun.

The entire Betts project was approved by the planning commission about three years ago, but the second phase had to go through the permitting process again because construction permits had expired. Janise Betts said it took longer than anticipated for the firm to reach the point where it needed the second building.

“Our business is trying to grow,” she said. “We provide a unique type of business in the mountain area, one not related to the ski industry. Our business cannot function in a group of smaller buildings as MAPF has proposed. We build custom yachts, and the parts are huge and long and big. We need large spaces for the assembly.”

“Until this point we thought we could just work with planning,” Janise Betts said. “We have made over $100,000 in improvements to the building. The new requests by MAPF would cost $500,000 or more. We could not compete with other shipbuilders if we had to face that kind of cost.”

She said the family-owned business, which has been operating for 27 years, currently employs 25 to 30 people during peak times, and might employ as many as 15 more after the expansion is complete.

“We’re extremely serious about this,” Janise Betts said. “This is my livelihood. It is my family, and we have a lot at stake here. It is just all so discouraging.”

Assistant town planner Duane Hall said the planning commission considered the Downtown Specific Plan policies when evaluating the Betts project, but did not consider the DSP zoning ordinances passed by the town council Nov. 20.

“The planning commission in deliberations looked at the DSP policies and applied them to this project,” Hall said. “This project has been working under those policies. The zoning standards were not applied because they do not come into effect until Dec. 20. Also, they were not available to the public until Nov. 20.”

The DSP was adopted by the Truckee Town Council on Nov. 6, at which time the DSP zoning standards ordinance was read for the first time. The Betts Phase II expansion was considered by the planning commission Nov. 11 and approved Nov. 12. The town council then had the second reading of the zoning standards ordinance and adopted it Nov. 20. MAPF filed its appeal of the planning commission decision Nov. 24.


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