Town hears new arguments about Gray’s Crossing development: Hearing continued after 5-hour meeting
It was like there was a script for the meeting.
As expected, Truckee residents, environmentalists and members of local organizations came out to raise questions, voice support or opposition or request changes to the Gray’s Crossing (planned community-2) proposed development and environmental impact report.
Also as expected, the Truckee Planning Commission stopped the hearing after nearly five hours and continued the item to its Oct. 15 meeting, so certain issues can be investigated further.
Almost all the same issues were brought up in the informational workshops held in the past couple months with the planning commission and town council. The main argument that hadn’t been heard in the past was the issue of a development agreement between East West and the town.
For the agreement, East West asked for a 15-year time limit for constructing the 757-acre, mixed-use development. Also, it asked the town to lock in development-related fees to the 2003 amounts. In return, East West said it would keep all its development decisions “in the best interest of the community” and would also offer trails, open space and other public benefits.
This idea was vehemently opposed by residents and planning commission members who addressed it. Mostly, they asked why East West should be allowed to pay 2003 fees as late as 2018.
Joe Burns, the Executive Director of the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe, also brought up the issue of Gray’s Crossing’s relationship with the community and the local economy.
“We feel the project will provide a positive impact on the community in the area of economy, environment, trail access, housing mix and infrastructure,” said. In addition, he mentioned, “This project no only protects that source of revenue, it will bolster it by using local contractors.”
The typical issues
Most of the approximately 70 members of the public who spoke to the planning commission spoke to the golf course, affordable housing, environmental issues and its appropriateness in the Town of Truckee.
One issue that most seemed to agree on was a “density bonus,” which would increase the number of residential units (a house, townhouse or apartment) from 600 to 725. While there was no requirement to make all the bonus units affordable, East West elected to make nearly all of them affordable to at most median- or moderate-income people.
Also, it seemed that the public and the planning commission agreed East West had substantially addressed the affordable and employee housing issue.
The other issues discussed were related to open space, trails and the environmental impacts. In regards to open space, the planning commission must decide whether narrow pieces of untouched land in between the golf hole areas would be included in the open space calculation.
Currently, East West lists the project as having approximately 417 acres of open space – approximately 55 percent of the land – which does not include the golf course.
The majority of the public expressed concern with certain portions and approval of other parts of the plan, but there were some who were either completely in support of the plan, or completely opposed.
Ken Rieders, a Truckee resident for 14 years, said, “We have a very smooth applicant here. I hope you take this issue seriously.”
On the other side, Kevin McCall, who has been a landscape architect for 25 years, said he feels East West has done an excellent job. He told the planning commission that his father lives in Colorado, where East West is based. “[My father] said, ‘That is a first-rate organization.'” McCall added that he had seen East West put forth a great “commitment to the community.”
To golf, or not to golf?
A hot topic throughout all the meetings so far has been the inclusion of an 18-hole, private golf course in the development plan. While the PC-2 area was designated by the town years ago as a “destination resort community” and East West said the golf course basically has to be in the plan, others disagree.
The Mountain Area Preservation Foundation went so far as to propose an alternate plan without a golf course, which elicited a couple nods from the audience. In its alternative, MAPF created a map showing a more tightly-clustered plan, with all the residential, commercial and retail components on the east and southeast side of the development area.
The only components of the plan on the western side in MAPF’s plan are the areas donated by East West for a middle school and for two churches. While MAPF’s plan proposes 636 total residential units, MAPF President Stefanie Olivieri said at the hearing that MAPF would support the density bonus.
McConn told the Sierra Sun before the hearing that the alternative makes certain assumptions about the development area. With MAPF’s alternative, McConn said, there would be extreme cuts and fills, and he said, “You’re basically going to bulldoze the southern part of that land…it would be totally denuded of vegetation.”
Mike Talmadge, who has visited for many years and bought a house in Truckee approximately three years ago, said, “Since we moved here we’ve heard ‘balance’… We have about 14 golf courses in this area – we don’t even have that many grocery stores.”
Many Truckee residents in attendance agreed with Talmadge, saying there are too many golf courses, they take up too much water and a private course is too exclusive. Others liked the idea of a golf course, but one – Truckee resident Brendon Riley – came up with a completely different proposal.
Riley said he was concerned about the amount of water the development and the golf course would take up, but suggested keeping the golf course and mitigating water use by adding a measure restricting extensive lawns on private residences.
Town staff will review and clarify the big issues, and the project will be continued at a planning commission hearing on Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall. It is expected that at that meeting, the planning commission will make a final decision, which will be passed on to the town council.
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