New Commercial Row offices on 45-day hold
October 29, 2006
The Truckee Town Council gave a unanimous thumbs up to an emergency ordinance that prevents offices from moving into first-floor spaces on Commercial Row for 45 days.
At a special meeting Thursday night, the council adopted the interim prohibition on all uses except retail, restaurants and bars from Bridge Street to Spring Street on the north side of Donner Pass Road. The ordinance can be extended for one or two years to give the town more time to consider a more permanent solution.
Town Manager Tony Lashbrook outlined a best-case timeline for action on the office space issue. He said town staff would begin work immediately to contact all stake-holders while a more permanent ordinance could come before the Truckee Planning Commission Jan. 10, and then to the Town Council for final approval Feb. 1.
Misty Young, owner of the Squeeze In, asked council to consider areas that are designed to generate foot traffic.
“Think conceptually ” picture Disneyland where they’ve created a creative historic center ” you don’t find any offices,” Young said.
Jerry Wood, owner of the White Buffalo, pointed to the “critical mix” as seen in the models of up-coming developments in Truckee.
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“No one store is a destination in Truckee,” Wood said. “It’s the mix that attracts people.”
Ed Coleman, part owner of Bar of America and Pacific Crest, said he has been successful for 20 years in the restaurant business, but if he had to pay the rent being pushed up by real estate offices he said “we would have to close our doors tomorrow.”
Art Chapman with JMA Ventures, which works in retail development, described how downturns in the economy forced retail out and longer leases with offices didn’t let retail back in during upturns.
“The cycle continues and keeps diluting the amount of retail,” Chapman said.
Realtors, both with offices on Commercial Row and elsewhere, spoke against the temporary ordinance.
John Falk, representing the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors, disagreed with the premise that offices were bad for downtown business and foot traffic.
“Real estate offices generate foot traffic. People do browse the listings in the real estate windows,” Falk said.
He also argued this was a form of “backdoor rent control” because retail business owners said offices were driving rent up on Commercial Row.
Paula Erle, president of the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors said that such an ordinance would infringe on property rights and free enterprise.
She also questioned the use of an emergency ordinance, which she said should be for safety or health issues the town needs to address, not a land use issue.
John Fraser, an owner of Truckee Realty, said his business had been downtown for 25 years and asked what would happen to existing offices as their leases came up under the new ordinance, but Lashbrook explained the ordinance would have no effect on existing offices.