Northstar development recommendations include housing, infrastructure upgrades | SierraSun.com

Northstar development recommendations include housing, infrastructure upgrades

Christina Nelson

When regional businesses prosper, we all prosper – or do we get stuck with crowded roads, air pollution and an even greater gap between workforce housing needs and availability?

Taking advantage of the comment period for the Northstar Village draft environmental impact report, the Truckee Town Council and staff made recommendations regarding the project’s impacts on traffic, air quality and housing in the region.

“The project really involves rebuilding the Northstar Village,” said Tony Lashbrook, Truckee community development director.

But as the town staff report suggests, the improvement project is not simply a remodel of an existing structure.

Proposed improvements include 213 new residential units, 121,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, 42,000 square feet of conference space, 60,000 square feet of skier services, and 66,000 square feet of miscellaneous uses.

Of much concern to Truckee officials and residents – who find themselves stuck in traffic on good ski days – is traffic impacts and the amount of money Placer County is willing to dedicate to traffic improvements in Truckee.

“The development and the success of Northstar affects the circulation of our community,” Lashbrook said.

The draft EIR offers two options to offset future traffic generated by the development of the resort – a right-turn lane on Brockway Road, acceleration lane on southbound Highway 267 and shared financial responsibility for a signal on Bridge Street and Commercial Row.

Truckee and Placer County are currently working together to form a joint-traffic impact mitigation program, which recognizes the regional impacts of development in the Martis Valley, Lashbrook said.

But the letter to the Placer County Board of Supervisors sought to emphasize the need for traffic mitigation fees that stay in the region, instead of being allocated to other parts of Placer County.

Among other regional concerns, the letter points out that the draft EIR “falls short” of identifying ways to reduce air pollution. Requiring a fee for the installation of an approved woodburning device would only reduce PM10 emissions – particulate matter that has been linked to an increased death and disease rate – by no more than 25 percent.

Truckee officials have worked with Placer County in the past year to reduce PM10 emissions from wood-burning stoves, and the town’s letter to Placer County states that the project should aim to “offset 100 percent of the project’s PM10 emissions.”

This can be accomplished two ways, the letter states: by either prohibiting the installation of woodstoves, or by a mitigation fee that would result in the removal or replacement of enough non-certified woodstoves in the Martis Valley to offset the PM10 emissions.

With enough room to house approximately 100 of its current employees, Truckee officials were also concerned about the housing of new employees generated by the resort’s development, pinching an already tight affordable-housing market.

“[It] is quite a hit on housing in our community,” Lashbrook said of the estimated 472 new jobs the project will generate.

East West Partners and Northstar have been pursuing the development of Sawmill Heights, a 96-unit affordable/employee housing project in Northstar. Northstar homeowners sued to stop the project a year ago.

“The town requests that the construction of the Sawmill Heights project be specified as a mitigation measure for the construction of the Northstar Village project and that building permits for the Northstar Village not be issued until a binding commitment for the construction and long-term operation of Sawmill Heights housing is executed,” the council said in its recommendation.

East West, Northstar’s development partner, agreed with the town’s recommendations to Placer County.

“The bottom line is that we do support that the town and Placer County need to work in concert to come to a conclusion,” said Dave Tirman, project manager for the Northstar Village project.