Breaking down Truckee’s planning process | SierraSun.com

Breaking down Truckee’s planning process

TALK OF THE TOWN, Heidi Scoble and Robie Wilson Litchfield

Welcome back to our tour of Truckee Town Hall. Our last stop on the tour brings us to the Planning Division of the Community Development Department where we will be camping out for a while.

We saved this stop for last, as it is the driving force in our desire to start this series of articles. For the next few installments we will be examining in depth the inner workings of the Planning Division (PD) in an effort to help you understand better our and other’s roles and why and how all these projects are happening.

Do you remember that “very overwhelming, ambiguous, subjective, and outright complicated process” issue we raised in our first article? Kind of like riding a merry-go-round after several rounds on a Ferris wheel? In an attempt to make clear the rules and the players’ positions in this – let’s call it a game for now – it is first necessary to introduce to you all involved and that’s what we will be doing today.

To start, every game must have a rulebook. Ours is twofold. First we have The General Plan. This very lofty and broad document is the community driven vision for growth and development in the town. It designates a range of elements including, how many and what kind of homes we should fit into a site, where commercial and recreational ventures should take place and where open space should be preserved. Secondly , to make sure these goals are implemented in a safe and aesthetic manner we have the very hefty – literally – development code. In it is all the regulations that make the General Plan come to life. Now don’t go confusing this with the building code. The development code has nothing to do with snow loads, window glazing or wood treatments.

A few examples of regulations outlined in the development code are allowed land uses, such as where can affordable housing be located, architectural and landscape design guidelines, building setbacks, maximum building height requirements, site coverage limits, parking and sign standards, land use and development procedures, and the administration of the development code.

Don’t worry about the 650-page development code being intimidating, the planning staff is always available to walk you through the document

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Going back to the General Plan, did we say the General Plan is community driven? Absolutely! In fact, in case you didn’t know, the General Plan is under review for revision in a series of ongoing public workshops, which you can attend. As of this week there are two more scheduled and we encourage you to visit the TOT Web site at http://www.townoftruckee.com to learn more. If you have issues with land use, here’s your chance to get your two cents in.

Next we visit the players in our game.

As with the rest of the CDD, the planning division is overseen by Tony Lashbrook and run by Duane Hall, our town planner. These two key players oversee all planning activities in the division, including working closely with project proponents through pre-application meetings at initial stages to help guide them in assembling their formal applications.

Under Duane are Associate Planner Heidi Scoble, Assistant Planners Stacy Wydra and Denyelle Nishimori, and Planning Permit Technician Elizabeth Richardson. These are the players who are assigned and process the formal applications for compliance with the rulebooks. The town’s new administrative assistant, Jamie LaChance, is just now getting her feet wet.

In addition to ‘staff,’ the PD is also home of the zoning administrator, planning commission, and the Truckee Town Council. All these people have varied community and professional backgrounds with their primary responsibility to always ensure that the goals and objectives put forth in the General Plan and development code are enforced.

In performing their duties enforcing the General Plan and development code, our very busy planners put in many hours at a number of activities including project review at the formal application stage as well as the building permit stage, to determine if a project requires environmental review through CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act); provide public education regarding zoning, land uses and long range planning activities, such as the General Plan update process; review commercial use applications; compile and write staff reports to the various hearing bodies (The zoning administrator, the planning commission and the town council); and present their reports at the corresponding public meetings for their assigned projects. In addition, planners take turns at the front desk as the designated planner on call. They are available to help with planning and permitting questions from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday by phone or in person.

In our game, projects may or may not require public review and the planners have a set of parameters outlined in the rulebooks that help them determine if such is necessary. For example, a standard single-family residence can be reviewed concurrently at the building permit level without public review, but the new construction of a shopping center will definitely be reviewed by at least the planning commission.

In our next column we will discuss who the zoning administrator, planning commission, and town council players are and begin to explore the process through the use of a hypothetical project.

Heidi Scoble is Associate Planner for Truckee, and Robie Wilson Litchfield sits on the Truckee Planning Commission. They can be reached at hscoble@townoftruckee.com.