More than a college |

More than a college

Photo by Josh Miller/Sierra Sun Perry Norris, executive director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust, stands atop McIver Hill, the proposed site for the new Sierra Community College campus and dedicated open space.

Standing in a low area on top of McIver Hill, Perry Norris turned around and pointed out all 360 degrees that surrounded him.From inside the saddle, the surrounding acres reach up to higher elevations and the land is encompassed by 60-foot pines – you can’t see out, and you can’t see in, he says.”The topography is such that you would have to go out of your way to build something that’s visible,” said Norris, the director of the Truckee Donner Land Trust, an organization with a mission to preserve open space in Truckee and surrounding areas.In this spot on McIver Hill, Norris is smack dab in the middle of Truckee – south of Interstate 80, north of West River Street, east of Highway 89 south and west of the roundabout – but you wouldn’t know it by looking around.If at least 55 percent of voters pass Measure H on Nov. 2, this will be the future site of Sierra College’s Truckee campus. But most importantly to Norris, if the school facilities bond passes the land trust will hold more than 50 percent of the 73-acre McIver Hill parcel – a prized piece of land in Truckee that the organization will set aside as open space.”For the land trust, this is one of the two most important pieces of land within the town [including the Bright property],” Norris said. “There kind of seemed to be a win-win; we will permanently protect the view sheds and the community gets a college campus.”Last month the Truckee Donner Land Trust created a memorandum of understanding with Sierra College. The agreement would allow the land trust to purchase the conservation easement from the college at fair market value if Measure H passes. The conservation easement would protect the property’s scenic qualities and make it so that any development would not be visible from surrounding roadways, except for a potential access road from the south and West River Street. On the remainder of the property, Sierra College agreed that design guidelines would protect the area’s scenic qualities, according to the agreement.

Past proposalsOver the years, McIver Hill has had its share of development proposals. The original Town of Truckee General Plan had the hill marked as a “special study area,” mostly because of environmental and access concerns due to its steep topography. There was also a ridge line protection policy to protect view sheds.Still, zoning for McIver Hill allowed for 87,000 square feet of commercial and retail office space and 50 residential units. A a few years ago, a proposal asked to put as many as 700 residential units, lodging, commercial space and a Sierra College campus on the land. The developers touted it as a way to improve Truckee’s housing shortage, but they couldn’t make the project work mostly because of the site’s topography.In the current General Plan update, the Truckee Planning Commission and Truckee Town Council retained the original development limits but with an educational focus on the site.”This college proposal kind of creates a unique opportunity,” said Tony Lashbrook, Truckee’s community development director.Public access

Walking through the brush atop McIver Hill, Norris pointed out imaginary benches where people could eat lunch. He sees trails leading from Deerfield Drive to the roundabout that could get foot and bike traffic off Donner Pass Road, and a Nordic ski trail that could be groomed in the winter.If voters OK Measure H, college officials say the campus will be the crown jewel for Sierra College’s four-campus district. It would also attain a large part of the Truckee Donner Land Trust’s goal to protect the ridge line from Jackass Ridge in the east to Schallenberger Ridge in the west, Norris said.”We think that this property is kind of one of the defining characteristics of Truckee,” Norris said.Sidebars:Measure H• School facilities bond to pay for a Sierra College Truckee campus on the Nov. 2 ballot;• Needs a 55 percent majority to pass;

• $35 million bond would cover land purchase, 40,000-square-foot campus and soft costs that go with construction;• Bond would assess roughly $16 per $100,000 of asses house value per year within the boundaries of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District;• Comes on the heels of Measure E, a facilities bond for Sierra College’s entire four-county district that voters turned down in the March election.The campus• 40,000-square-foot campus with classrooms, administrative offices and student services surrounding a south-facing solarium• 320 parking spaces• Construction complete by fall 2008

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