Gated wonders are planning blunders
July 1, 2004
The line that divides the southern border of Truckee from Placer County may never have been as glaringly apparent as during the June 24 Placer County Planning Commission meeting.Truckee officials, who have effectively barred development of future golf courses within town limits, listened as Placer commissioners approved two gated developments that will bring 45 more holes of golf to Martis Valley – basically a stone’s throw from Truckee’s southern border. The move, which has been met with promises of appeals and legal challenges from environmental groups, is another step toward lining Schaffer Mill Road with gated, exclusive communities that offer a total of more than 80 holes of golf.By allowing gated entrances and seemingly limitless golf, Placer County threatens to turn the county line into a marker that delineates community from exclusivity. The inclusive, open community that is such a part of Truckee’s character may soon end right over the county line in a string of guarded gates and members-only services.The irony in Siller Ranch, which proposes 27 holes of golf and 726 residential units, is that all the gates in the world will not keep the impacts of its development within the property. The gates will open only to let in Truckee residents that build the homes, maintain the golf courses, or work in the clubhouse, and of course, let them out once their shifts are over.Eight of 13 traffic impacts from Siller Ranch will land directly on Truckee, as will employee and affordable housing demands if Siller’s employee housing is not on the ground when the development goes up. Siller’s gates will be porous to traffic streaming from the development into Truckee – and to its workers hunting for housing in Truckee – but will be impervious to Truckee residents looking to golf, hike, or visit the amenities on the property.All of Truckee’s efforts to make developments as responsible as possible for their impacts may be undermined by projects just across the county line. In the gateless, 725-unit Gray’s Crossing project, one of the largest planning decisions Truckee has seen in years, town officials got 225 affordable housing units, two donated parcels for community uses, a school, church and community center site, and an extensive trail network.From Siller Ranch, Placer County got an exclusive, gated project that offers no affordable housing. And while the project may include an amphitheater and other amenities, the gates will make sure these facilities are enjoyed only by the exclusive few. And while there is a possibility that employee housing may come later, there is no guarantee of when or where.Although the Placer commissioners asked some good questions, their ultimate decision seemed to reflect the developer’s concerns rather than the flood of comments from concerned citizens and surrounding groups.The least Truckee can ask of Placer County is that its decisions reflect the concerns of the citizens that the development will impact. And then just don’t talk about the impacts, do something about them. Placer County officials shouldn’t be afraid to require developers to open up the gates of their subdivisions. They shouldn’t be afraid to deny a project that does not include affordable housing in its plans. And they shouldn’t be afraid to stand up to a developer for the sake of the little guy – that is their job.