Our View: Planning by the book or on the fly?
January 12, 2006
The Truckee Planning Commission’s three-and-a half-hour review of the Sierra Bluff subdivision on Wednesday night was about par for the course for a single agenda item.Unfortunately, while the commission’s review was exhaustive, exhausting and thorough, much of it was unnecessary.The hours of examining lighting, fencing, noise and drainage could have been avoided if the commission would have trusted set Town of Truckee policies – compiled with months of public input and attention to detail – that address those very issues in the preliminary stages of a subdivision application.Sure, each subdivision is different. And sometimes a particular issue like visibility or lighting might need a second look from the town panel entrusted with the way new development will fit in with Truckee’s character.But for observers who have been through scores of public meetings that end in policies on preserving ridgelines, protecting Truckee’s night sky or any other number of technical planning tools; to rehash each of these issues often leads nowhere except back to the established policy. That’s what they were designed for in the first place.As important as the planning commission’s review is, its job is not to alter Truckee planning policy on the fly or change the rules on a developer at the last stage of the game.Planning commissioners should be commended for sticking with their policy on allowing secondary housing units in the Sierra Bluff subdivision – a policy meant to bolster the town’s affordable housing.Unfortunately other issues that have similar cut-and-dry community statutes took up much of the commission’s time and led to few substantial changes.Much like the oft-cited “piecemeal planning,” if the rule book is re-written for each subdivision, the town risks inconsistent and unequal requirements for similar planning projects.Conversely, if the planning commission relies on comprehensive town codes, they will have more time to focus on some of the larger, overriding concerns of a project – issues that may not have an already developed policy.And if the commission meetings are more focused and do not last the usual five hours, Truckee citizens getting off work for the day may be more apt to stick their noses into the gathering and get involved.