Town hires new leader of planning department | SierraSun.com

Town hires new leader of planning department

David Bunker

The Town of Truckee has hired John McLaughlin, the community development director the city of Ashland, Ore., to head up the town’s planning, animal control and building departments.McLaughlin worked for the Ashland planning department for the last 19 years. For the past 12 years he headed up the community development department in a town that has housing and tourism characteristics similar to Truckee. He is expected to take over the position vacated by Tony Lashbrook, who was promoted to town manager, by early September.”Ashland is a community that is greatly influenced by the Bay Area,” McLaughlin said. “So housing prices have gone up dramatically.”Home prices in Ashland have been driven by retirees, he said. And as the area attracts older residents, the escalating prices have forced out families, McLaughlin said.”What is happening is families can’t afford to live in Ashland and the people coming in just don’t have children,” said McLaughlin, who has seen two elementary schools close during his tenure in town.McLaughlin said he knows he faces a similar situation in Truckee. Along with increasingly unaffordable housing, Ashland also has a railroad line running through town, a large influx of tourism in the summer, and a historic downtown. Given these similarities with Truckee, town officials believe his background in planning will fit in well with Truckee.”I am very pleased with the outcome of the [hiring] process,” said Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook in an e-mail interview.McLaughlin was one of seven candidates interviewed by two separate panels. Both panels agreed on McLaughlin as the top choice, Lashbrook said. McLaughlin leaves Ashland city government under a mutual agreement with the city council to step down from the community development directorship. McLaughlin said increasing politicization of the growth of the town has convinced him to move on.”We’re also seeing a shift politically in the perception to growth,” McLaughlin said. “The community is getting stronger and stronger on the no-growth side.”Controversy over the role of the planning department in a town split over growth issues was changing the function of the city department, he said.”My career is as a planner,” McLaughlin said. “And I want to see a community plan to be the best they can be.”One of the major differences between Oregon and California that McLaughlin will have to adjust to will be the environmental review of projects. McLaughlin will have to study up on California environmental planning law when he takes over the community development department.But Truckee officials don’t see that as a large obstacle, since the town has experts in environmental law on staff.McLaughlin said he is impressed with the professionalism of the town’s government. He believes that his philosophy of planning will mesh well with what is already going on in Truckee.”I think that our management styles are going to be very compatible,” McLaughlin said. “I am not coming in to make any great changes, but to continue on the great path you are on.”