More growth, change lurks in 2002 | SierraSun.com

More growth, change lurks in 2002

Photo illustration/Doug SlaterYou don't need to be a fortune teller to know that Truckee's future in 2002 includes more growth and development, but it also includes town elections and new laws.
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Growth and development have arguably been the biggest issues in Truckee for the last several years.

And this year, say town officials, will be no different, as growth, particularly several large developments, will occupy much of the local spotlight.

“I think the issues related to the town that most people will be interested in [this year] are land use issues. Gray’s Station, PC-3, McIver Hill, and potentially the Hilltop area, those are all in the planning pipeline,” said Town Manager Stephen L. Wright.

“They are at different stages, but there will be decision points on those projects throughout the year. [Gray’s Station and Old Greenwood] have the ability, because they have gone through so much of the environmental impact report process, that they could receive final approval. And PC-3 could be close to that.”

Town Councilmembers echoed Wright’s sentiments that much of the town’s attention in 2002 would be focused on land use issues.

“These [developments] are all right on the front burner. They aren’t just something we are talking about anymore. They are real plans. So there is a lot of activity that is going to be centered around land use in our community,” said Councilwoman Maia Schneider.

Town staff and councilmembers added that the public still has the ability to offer input and shape some of the projects.

“PC-3 has close to a year of environmental review, so does McIver Hill. As we go through those environmental processes, there are lots of opportunities for public input to help guide what the plan will actually be,” Wright said.

Councilman Ted Owens not only agreed, but also put out a call for greater participation by residents in 2002.

“Frankly, I’ve been a little disappointed in the turnout at some of the [council] meetings and workshops,” Owens said. “I can’t stress it enough: You have to have people out there and people have to participate. There are a handful of people that are very caring about what happens to Truckee. But you see the same faces at the council meetings and the public workshops. The time for the public to participate is now.”

Owens added that his focus in 2002 will include not only what is happening in Truckee, but also the surrounding area.

“The big thing for me this year is Placer County. Building an alliance, a coalition and a good relationship, particularly in the face of the Martis Valley Master Plan. I think we really have to look beyond our own jurisdictional borders,” Owens said.

On a regional level, Nevada County 5th District Supervisor Barbara Green predicted county officials will have to wrestle with a more common problem: money.

Green said the state is facing a large budget deficit, and its impact will likely be felt on the county level after the start of the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

“We don’t know what exactly it will be, but probably somewhere between $14 and $20 billion [state budget deficit]. It may have an effect on what services [the county] can provide,” Green said.

With the town in a rosier financial picture than the state, Wright said the search for a permanent home for Town Hall would also be one of the town’s higher priorities.

“That will also have a large public involvement component, and I would expect that we will have a final decision [on a future Town Hall site] sometime in June or July.”

A final decision will allow town staff and the council to begin negotiations for the acquisition of that site.

There will be three seats up for election on the Town Council in November. Ted Owens, Don McCormack and Maia Schneider currently hold those seats. Schneider has said she will not seek reelection, Owens said he will and McCormack is “undecided, but likely to run.”

Mayor Ron Florian and Councilmember Josh Susman were both reelected in the fall of 2000.

“We should know by August who the candidates will be,” Wright said.

But elections will not be limited to the town council, said Schneider.

“There are also a lot of seats on [the boards] of the various special districts,” Schneider noted.

As for town government itself, Wright said residents would not see any major changes or additions.

“I think it will be a quiet year. We don’t expect any substantial changes. But we still have a few openings in the police department,” he said.

Wright added that the permanent police headquarters in Town Hall should be open by early February.

But no opening will have a greater impact on the daily lives of Truckee residents than that of the Highway 267 bypass.

The bypass, in its third year of construction, is due to open sometime around Aug. 1.

“Clearly it will be the largest public works type project that the public will see,” Wright said.

Remaining in the ‘No rest for the weary’ category will be the personnel of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, as several large projects will continue into or begin in 2002.

“We will continue to rebuild the Donner Lake water system. We are going into Year 2 of a three-year plan,” said General Manager Peter Holzmeister.

“Another big issue will be bringing Glenshire into the PUD and solving their arsenic problem. Third, the board will also make a decision on whether or not we are going to offer [Internet and cable] services. And the fourth big thing for us will be all the various developments you hear the town talking about, if they get town approval and proceed, it makes for a pretty busy year for us.”

As far as construction as a whole, many in the industry are forecasting the slowdown that began in 2001 to continue into the next building season.

“Things were unusually, abnormally busy the last two or three years,” said Patrick Flora, president of the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe. “But I think that has peaked and leveled off to a little more rational level.”

But one of the area’s most persistent problems, the lack of affordable housing, will continue into 2002, and beyond.

“It’s a problem region wide. I have close to 20 people working for me, and they can’t find a place to live,” Flora said. “And affordable housing can be sort of a misnomer. Somebody at Lahontan might consider Tahoe Donner affordable housing. But the people that really make the community go are having a very difficult time finding housing.”

Mayor Florian agreed.

“We have a study going on right now, and we should have the results by the first quarter of [2002]. It will help guide us as to what avenues we should take,” he said. “It’s a universal problem.”

Councilwoman Schneider hopes 2002 will be the year for groups presently “under represented” to establish a public presence.

“There are people who are vastly under represented in our community. Hispanics are not represented to any degree on our publicly elected boards, and women are vastly under represented,” Schneider said.