Town Hall relocation talk continues
The search for a permanent home for the Truckee Town Hall continued last month with another workshop in which councilmembers, town staff and the public tried to flesh out possible sites for acquisition by the Town.
The workshop came just 10 months after Town Council and staff moved into their current site on Airport Road.
Two days after the Aug. 14 brainstorming session, the Council awarded a half-million dollar bid for the remodel of a section of Town Hall for the new police department.
The workshop, the fourth since 1998, produced a directive from the Council to the staff to prepare a proposal for bid to hire a consultant. The consultant will assist the Town in formulating a needs analysis, reviewing cost related factors and ranking potential sites.
The Town purchased its current headquarters from Bank of the West in June 2000 for approximately $5.2 million, and moved into the building last November.
The early front runner for a new site appears to be the old Louisiana Pacific mill site east of downtown. The 34-acre parcel is currently owned by Union Pacific; however, half of the property may soon be sold to private interests.
Still, possible redevelopment funds for the remaining 17 acres may add to the parcel’s possible fate as the future home of Town Hall.
“I don’t like to speak for others, but I think, in general, people are favorable towards the old mill site,” said Truckee Mayor Don McCormack. “I personally like the mill site as a permanent home.”
“Face value, the mill site is probably the most desiring of the town’s energy and resources,” Councilman Josh Susman said.
But the mill site may prove problematic for several reasons. The extent of the ground pollution from previous mill operations is unknown and Union Pacific has indicated they want to keep their balloon train track on the parcel operational. Union Pacific uses the balloon track to turn around snow plows.
Access to the parcel is another issue.
“Any intensification of traffic on Church Street is going to generate its own issues,” said Tahoe Truckee Lumber Co. owner Breeze Cross. His lumber business is located on Church Street, just east of Highway 267. “(Union Pacific) doesn’t want any traffic coming across the (tracks).”
Other sites discussed at the workshop included several properties on West River Street, including the Arnold property (currently occupied by the Auto Doctor and Top Dog Timber), the Nevada County equipment yard and the Hendrickson property north of West River Street at the base of McIver Hill.
Stefanie Olivieri, spokeswoman for Mountain Area Preservation Foundation and owner of Cabona’s, suggested the town should have its offices near downtown.
“It is important for Town Hall to be in the downtown area,” she said. “It gives Town Hall a sense of community, which is important.”
Councilwoman Maia Schneider said other options that need to be explored include partnering with the school district, an idea Town Manager Stephen L. Wright said the Town is exploring.
“We are still talking with the school district about a combined facility (on Joerger Road),” Wright said.
None of the councilmembers and Town officials in attendance brought up the possibility of staying put in the building they just moved into.
But Cross did.
“You need to keep in mind you already own a facility does it make sense to move again?” he asked the Council.
“I think we need to compare any future site with the current site,” Cross said afterward. “We need to look at three factors desirability (of the location), the fiscal factor and feasibility (of acquiring the parcel).”
Councilman Ted Owens did point out the people who use it most, builders and developers, find the current site convenient.
“Although it’s out of town, it’s easy to use, and there is plenty of parking,” Owens said.
But applying this criteria would mean “one group has precedent over others,” Schneider said after the workshop.
Schneider said that Town Hall needs to be user-friendly to all residents, not just those who frequent it for commercial reasons.
Owens also recommended the Council set budgetary parameters before moving forward with the process.
“You need to know what your budget is before you go shop for land how many taxpayer dollars do we have and how many are we going to shoot for down the road?”
Several councilmembers pointed out that a directive in the General Plan calls for a Town Hall presence downtown. That, coupled with the remoteness of the current location, were the most often-cited reasons for a relocating.
“It isn’t pedestrian friendly,” Owens added.
In November 1999, with town staff housed in the upstairs of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District offices on Donner Pass Road, officials started looking for a new Town Hall site.
Timelines for finding a permanent site, designing and constructing a new Town Hall range anywhere from five to 10 years from now.
In the meantime, the Town will continue to operate out of the home they just moved into last fall.