McIver Hill open space agreement delayed | SierraSun.com

McIver Hill open space agreement delayed

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

When the Sierra College board didn’t approve an open space agreement last week that was advertised as part of the college’s November Measure H bond initiative, it didn’t mean that the easement was a dead deal, college officials say.

In fact, the college expects to approve the easement at their August board meeting after making minor adjustments, said Truckee campus Dean Frank DeCourten.

“The easement is on the edge of approval,” DeCourten said.

A few “legal wrinkles” temporarily sidelined the agreement between the Truckee Donner Land Trust and Sierra College, which is expected to permanently protect more than half of the 72-acre Truckee college campus site from development, college officials said. The easement will be purchased by the Truckee Donner Land Trust for a price that will be determined by three appraisals, said Truckee Donner Land Trust Director Perry Norris. The cost will likely be in the “seven figure” range, said Norris, and will be paid over 10 years from transfer fee money generated from Gray’s Crossing and Old Greenwood, he said.

College trustees, six of whom live in the Sierra foothills, were caught up in traffic on Interstate 80 and were not able to make it to a closed session meeting in time to discuss the easement before the regular board meeting, said Trustee Dave Ferrari.

“We’re going to have an easement, and I think it will be to the satisfaction of people,” Ferrari said.

Concerns over whether the easement would constrict future growth of a Truckee junior college had college trustees taking a little more time with the legal agreement.

“Most of it had to do with … our ability to expand in the future,” Ferrari said. “People voted for a college campus there and we want to make sure that future boards have the ability to grow.”

The easement will have a provision that allows the Truckee Donner Land Trust and Sierra College to allow for further expansion down the road if that is necessary, said Perry Norris.

“If the community in 100 years really decides they need more classrooms than open space, the easement provides measures to let that happen,” Norris said.

The legal agreement is slated to block off half of the land from development but allow for trails, the partners say.

Since the overwhelming passage of Measure H in November of last year, Sierra College has seen widespread turnover in their leadership.

Aaron Klein and Scott Leslie were elected to the seven-member board in the same election that saw the voters’ approve Measure H. Soon, a move spearheaded by Klein caused Sierra College President Kevin Ramirez step down. These changes in the college ranks have affected the negotiations over the easement, said Norris.

“With the change in the college presidency and change in the board, I think some of the expectations have changed and the tone of negotiations has changed,” he said.

The new board members look at the easement agreement as “something they inherited from the previous administration,” Norris said.

Despite the changes, Norris said that he expects the easement to pass in August because that is what the college agreed to before Measure H was passed and that is what was sold to the community as part of the $35 million bond measure campaign.

“We expect a campus that is going to complement our community and fit in with out town character,” Norris said.

Ferrari noted that the board signed a memorandum of understanding with the land trust that, while not legally binding, will be upheld by the college board.

“We know what we signed and we will live up to that,” he said.