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School site purchase under review

JOHN A. BAYLESS, Sierra Sun

Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District is moving forward with a plan to purchase land within the proposed site of Planned Community 2 to build a new middle school, TTUSD Superintendent Pat Gemma said.

Developers of the proposed Boca Sierra Estates promised to donate land for school and recreation facilities, but that promise has always been conditional upon approval of the project, which would be located on 789 acres along both sides of Highway 89 north of Interstate 80.

Because the school district needs to acquire land soon and provide a design for its new middle school in order to receive matching funds from the state, it must purchase the property now.

Refund offered

However, the Hopkins Family, the developers of Boca Sierra Estates, have offered to refund the purchase price if the project is eventually approved.

The project is currently in the preliminary stages of Environmental Impact Report work, and probably months away from consideration by Truckee Town Council.

Even if approved, Boca Sierra Estates could face other challenges, because the scale of development on Planned Community 2 has been hotly contested by Truckee’s Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, as well as some residents near the site.

Limitation of commercial development on the site was the impetus for an October 1997 ballot initiative, which failed in a close vote.

Gemma said the Hopkins Family has agreed to place the money from the purchase into a special interest-bearing account. If Boca Sierra Estates is eventually approved for construction, the money and the interest generated would be returned to the school district. Otherwise, the funds would be retained by the trust.

The school district has budgeted $1 million for land acquisition and site preparation – money which in addition to the land purchase would pay to run utilities to the site and prepare it for construction.

Gemma said the district will submit an offer it believes is reasonable to the Hopkins Family, then negotiate a purchase price before taking the matter to the district board for consideration.

The parcel which the school district seeks to purchase is about 38 acres in size.

The Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District is also interested in acquiring property from Boca Sierra Estates, but the board of directors is awaiting results from the EIR.

“We’re going to go forward with it, but right now we are waiting on the EIR to see if there will be any constraints on the land,” TDRPD General Manager Steve Randall said.

He said the rec and park district is considering construction of a community center on the site, but is concerned about whether the property will be accessible from Highway 89.

Brian Mullins, a trust officer with the Union Bank of San Francisco who represents the Hopkins Family, said the developers are trying to live up to their promises in the best way possible, given the school district’s timetable.

“Hopkins originally offered to donate the school site back when Vince Deveney was school superintendent,” Mullins said. “The donation was subject to PC-2 being approved with no lawsuits. Timing became a factor for the school district in that it did not believe it would take this long for them to be able to receive the property in donation.”

Mullins said the current plan to sell the property to the district was originated by TTUSD because of its need for a school site.

“It turns out they need to build a middle school now and there is available funding now,” Mullins said. “They need to move the timetable up, so they came to us and asked us to sell them the property now.”

He said since the property was offered to the district as a donation, the Hopkins Family agreed to sell it and then refund the purchase with interest if the project is approved.

“The district is obtaining an appraisal by a qualified appraiser,” Mullins said. “As soon as they have accepted an appraisal, they will get back to us.”

He said the current arrangement is the simplest and cleanest way of handling the transaction, given the needs of both parties.

According to the summary plan, phase one of the proposed development includes construction of an 80,000-square-foot grocery market and retail center on a plot of forested land surrounded by Highway 89 on the west, the Highway 267 Bypass on the northeast, and I-80 to the south. The Truckee General Plan limits a single tenant in the PC-2 to 40,000 square feet, so half of the space would be occupied by a grocery store complex and the other 40,000 square feet by smaller tenants.

Also included in the first phase is a destination resort with 100 to 150 rooms, a clubhouse, an 18-hole golf course, and between 100 and 150 residential parcels for custom homes or multi-family units near the golf course, open space zoning and trail easement.

Phase two of the proposed project included a mixed commercial use village center of between 30,000 and 95,000 square feet in size, once the Highway 267 Bypass is completed, along with 32 to 70 parcels for custom homes or multi-family units.

Phase three includes 83 parcels for custom homes, followed by phase four with more residential construction.


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