Road rage: Truckee decides West Reed residents own road
Despite a decision that appeared to shift responsibility away from local government, West Reed Avenue property owners are still far from resolving the road maintenance and drainage problems that have plagued the Donner Lake neighborhood.
The discussion at the May 1 council meeting focused mainly on the road’s recently disputed ownership, but the conversation also shifted to the idea of an assessment district for road and drainage improvements. That assessment district was first brought up two years ago, when property owners began looking for a way to fund the improvements and asked the town to look into the feasibility.
In February, some residents came forward arguing that the entity responsible for the drainage problems – Caltrans and the Town of Truckee – which in turn led to road maintenance problems and property damage, should be the responsible for paying for the repairs.
While some residents are eager to move forward with the assessment – which ranges from a couple of thousand dollars to $24,000 over 10 to 20 years – others feel responsibility for the road’s maintenance and liability has been unfairly shifted to private property owners.
Neighborhood resident Emilie Kashtan doesn’t feel the town is offering up all the information people need to make an educated decision about the assessment district, and felt the town council omitted information when they decided West Reed Avenue is not a public road.
“They give some of the information, but they don’t give all the information,” Kashtan said. “The bottom line is it (the town council decision) is what they can get away with.”
Kashtan, who presented the council with a 100-page report on the road’s ownership history, has spent approximately $1,500 and countless hours researching West Reed Avenue.
West Reed Avenue, an 8- to 10-foot wide road, was built in 1924 along with the Greenpoint subdivision, but wasn’t paved until the early 1990s, when homeowners got together to pave it themselves.
Now the narrow road is cracked and warn, and with a recent snowmelt, streams of water run through the grooves and cracks from the lack of maintenance.
Kashtan said it doesn’t matter how many times the road is paved, the problem won’t be solved until the source of the problem is fixed. That source is an inadequate drainage system that’s supposed to divert water from Interstate 80 and Donner Lake Road.
The California Department of Transportation at one point offered money to help with drainage improvements in the neighborhood possibly caused by runoff from I-80.
Most property owners agree that West Reed has a problem and that something needs to be done.
Sheila Mullins, who moved to the subdivision when West Reed was still a dirt road, said drainage has been a continual problem. She was most fearful of damage to her property during the 1997 flood.
“I actually drove away from my house in Truckee not thinking it would be there when I got back,” said Mullins, who supports an assessment district.
Brad Mills, another supporter of an assessment district, said he never felt West Reed was the responsibility of local government.
“I was always under the assumption that the road was maintained by the people,” he said. “I think it’s important that we work together.”
In September 2001 the Truckee Town Council hired a consultant to identify possible drainage improvements and to develop an assessment district. More than two years later, Kashtan came forward arguing that an assessment district shouldn’t be needed – Caltrans and the town were responsible for the drainage and the road.
Although West Reed Avenue was never adopted at the time of Truckee’s incorporation, Kashtan said it’s never been abandoned and is considered a public right-of-way.
“There is no evidence that the street was ever accepted,” said Public Works Director Dan Wilkins. “Anything that Nevada County was maintaining, the town was required to assume.”
He said that based on available evidence, the town’s past decision to not maintain the road was “the appropriate practice.”
Before presentations by Kashtan and Marty Woods, who has supported an assessment district since it was first proposed, Mayor Ted Owens flipped a coin to see who would go first. Neither wanted to go before the other.
Kashtan went first and, during her speech, turned toward the audience, instead of the council.
“It is clear that the level of town service received depends on the neighborhood in which one lives,” she argued. “This boils down to money the town doesn’t want to spend.”
Woods made a plea for a solution and an end to property damage.
“Over the years, properties have sustained damage from Interstate 80 runoff,” she said, saying she hopes the property owners, the town and Caltrans can reach a joint solution. “We don’t expect the Town of Truckee to pay for the entire project.”
During their deliberations, council members sought a middle ground, but ended up voting 5-0 in favor of denying town ownership of the road.
“I do want us to continue to take a leadership role on this,” said Councilman Craig Threshie. “We need to take steps to improve the quality of the water before it reaches Donner Lake.”
Councilman Josh Susman responded to the argument that West Reed Avenue residents are taxpayers and therefore government should take care of their road.
“This idea that there’s this pot of money that you’re not getting your share of is very difficult,” he said. “She has done some very good things for this community and Donner Lake, but I think Ms. Kashtan poisoned a process. I’m sorry that we’ve gotten to this point … where you have property owners pitted against property owners.”
“I was impressed with the tenacity with which you approached this and the report you put together,” Owens said to Kashtan, but asked that they agree to disagree. Owens said the council will be looking to the homeowners to determine if there is enough support for an assessment district before the town does anything else.
“I’m all for advocacy. I’m all for speaking your mind. I’m also for progress and finding solutions,” said Councilwoman Beth Ingalls.
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