Railroad says Downtown Specific Plan negatively impacts its operations | SierraSun.com

Railroad says Downtown Specific Plan negatively impacts its operations

Town officials face an amendment to the Downtown Specific Plan after Union Pacific representatives strongly opposed several policies, procedures and zoning ordinances included in the plan.

Planning commissioners will consider a resolution to amend the DSP Tuesday, Sept. 2, at Truckee Town Hall. Town officials hope to have a response from UP to any possible changes before the regular town council meeting Sept. 18, when councilmembers are scheduled to hold a public hearing on the plan.

UP voiced concerns in an Aug. 18 letter to the town from its attorney Paul Minault, that included:

— Jurisdictional issues

— Public parks, parking lots and interim zoning issues

— Development at the Old Mill site

— Railroad zone issues

— Pedestrian crossing and the town’s memorandum of agreement with UP

— Bicycle path plans

— and land use and zoning designations associated with the downtown Truckee Fire Protection District station house

“This letter contains the comments of Union Pacific Railroad on the draft Downtown Specific Plan,” Minault said. “UP is strongly opposed to a number of proposals in the plan which negatively impact UP’s property and operations.”

Town officials contend the jurisdictional issues, which UP says are governed by the Interstate Commerce Commission, can be addressed by inserting additional language in the DSP.

Although UP can conduct its operations without interference from Truckee, town officials said existing law authorizes the town to regulate private development within its limits.

“This includes development on railroad property that is not directly related to the operation of the railroad,” Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook said in the town’s response letter to UP.

Lashbrook also said, however, before any development can occur on those properties, the town is aware it would have to obtain permission from the railroad and negotiate a lease agreement.

“There is no intent to ‘take’ or exact railroad property for public improvements,” Lashbrook said.

UP is also opposed to two parking areas identified on West and East River streets and one adjacent to Cal Neva Tire, as well as the proposed public park east of the train depot.

Lashbrook said the DSP was created as a specific plan under provisions in the California Government Code; eliminating the parking areas and public park may not be consistent with code provisions and could impact other areas of the plan unrelated to UP property. He added, however,

the changes are possible.

Concerned about the compatibility to UP operations of proposed development at the Mill site, railroad officials objected to 300 residential and 250 lodging units proposed at the site, situated adjacent to UP’s balloon track. “UP believes that residential and lodging development is not appropriate adjacent to the balloon track,” Minault said.

Lashbrook said DSP language includes provisions for reducing or increasing the development unit numbers at the Mill site. In order to satisfy UP’s concerns, however, language in the DSP was altered from “accommodate affordable housing (on the Mill site)” to “accommodate housing where appropriate.”

The DSP also addresses potential relocation of the balloon track, which UP objected to. DSP language regarding the relocation will be omitted from the plan, according to Lashbrook.

In terms of the Railroad Zone, small sections of property adjacent to UP tracks on the west end of Commercial Row, the town agreed to include “railroad-related” facilities and operations, instead of railroad operations and facilities, and surface and subsurface utility lines.

The town agreed to prioritize pedestrian improvements at Bridge Street, instead of pushing to implement an at-grade crossing at Spring Street as provided by the DSP. UP objected to the Spring Street crossing because of its proximity to the railroad’s main line and because it would be situated one-half block from the Bridge Street crossing.

Also, under the June 6, 1996, MOA between UP and the town, it was agreed that an eastern undercrossing connecting the Mill site to East River Street and a mid-block crossing on Commercial Row would be pursued, provided the town close the Bridge Street crossing. In its letter, UP says that agreement should be recognized in the DSP.

UP objected to a bike path east of Commercial Row leading to the Truckee River Regional Park, saying it infringes on the railroad’s right-of-way and reduces the amount of developable UP property. Minault said the path should follow public streets outside of the UP right-of-way.

Lashbrook said the town has agreed to add language to the DSP that would specify a lease agreement between UP and the town that would accommodate the bike path.

Finally, because UP owns the property where the TFPD station is located, railroad officials wanted the zoning change from “public,” which prevents UP from leasing the land should the fire district relocate.

The town’s response will be to change the zoning to commercial.

“I believe this (letter) addresses all of the concerns outlined in your letter,” Lashbrook said. “I appreciate your willingness to discuss these issues in detail and interest in pursuing mutually acceptable solutions.”

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