Tahoe Forest church members defend potential sale of Truckee Veterans Hall
TRUCKEE, Calif. – Tahoe Forest Church members are defending the potential public-to-private sale of the iconic Veterans Hall Building that overlooks downtown Truckee, saying the church would be in position to better serve the community by having a long-sought permanent location.”Having this building, (we would) be giving back to the community – providing more places for our youth to go and events for them to do for free,” said church member Emily Ponczoch, who was among nearly 10 church members who spoke at last Thursday’s Truckee-Donner Recreation & Park District board meeting. “We would definitely be giving back to whatever was given to us.”Much concern has been raised over the past few weeks about the potential transaction of the district-owned property, including worries over possible decreased public access to the Rocking Stone, increased neighborhood traffic and exacerbating issues of snowmelt and rain runoff.”Right now the Rocking Stone is attached as part of the parcel that’s being talked about for sale,” said Truckee resident Ruth Jackson Hall at Thursday’s meeting. “There are Marine plaques that were just dedicated this summer. They are in the Rocking Stone area for two fallen heroes from our community. I don’t know why we would be selling a public building with such history without a lot more public conversation.”To which Blaire DeAragon, a member of the Tahoe Forest Church, said: “We’re not going to go in and drastically change the Vets Hall and tear things down. For one thing, what better way to honor our vets than through service to the community that they came from?”Tahoe Forest Church has been looking for a permanent home for several years, according to pervious reports. The church was located in the Glenshire Elementary School gymnasium for about 10 years before moving to its current location at The Rock complex at 11209 Brockway Road about two years ago.”Through various moves, various attempts in this community to establish just a place of worship has been a tremendous challenge,” said church member Tami Fiddyment. “… We are a part of this community, and we all support this community in every aspect. So we’re just asking for the community’s support to help us find a home that we can share with everyone in the community.”Wes Beyer, a Truckee resident, said his main concern is how the church’s activities and events would affect area traffic.”I do have some concerns,” he said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the church; it is a traffic situation. Living next to the other church up there, I see people coming and going and hurrying to go here and there, and it’s on those skinny little streets.”Upon district General Manager Steve Randall’s recommendation, the board will hold a public hearing on the potential sale, the date of which is planned to be determined at the district’s January meeting.”I think a public hearing is a very good idea because we were unable to notify all the neighbors,” said board chair Kristin York.Tahoe Forest Church, along with district staff, held a neighborhood meeting on Nov. 27 at the Veterans Hall, and of the approximately 25 attendees, some residents said it was the first time they were learning about the matter, Randall said.
The Veterans Hall property at 10214 High St. has been owned by the district since 1994, when it purchased it for $1 from Nevada County, which had plans to demolish the building, Randall said.In November 2011, the district was approached by Tahoe Forest Church about possibly renting the building, according to previous reports. Once the church learned it would have to develop parking, as indicated by the town of Truckee – a project that could cost approximately $125,000 to $150,000 – the church became interested in purchasing the facility.With no organized veteran groups existing in town for nearly a decade, and the facility getting limited community use due the 2009 completion of the Truckee Community Recreation Center, the building is accruing an annual loss of $20,000 for the district, according to previous reports.The district worked with the county to get a recreation use restriction for the building removed and then designated the building as surplus this August due to lack of use, Randall said. The building was then put out for potential sale to all government entities, as required by law, but no response was received, thereby allowing the district to sell the building to a private party. If Tahoe Forest Church decides to purchase or lease the building, it must obtain a conditional use permit from the town. The same would be true for any other entity planning on changing the use of the facility, Randall said. At this time, no date has been set for the town’s planning commission to deliberate on the church’s submitted conditional use permit, said Jenna Endres, associate planner for the town’s planning division.An appraisal is currently being conducted on the Veterans Hall and the lot across the street; results are expected to become available in mid-January, Randall said.