Truckee as year-round destination key to developer’s plans for
By Erich Sommer, Sierra Sun
With close to 20 years in the resort development business, East West Partners, based in With close to 20 years in the resort development business, East West Partners, based in Colorado, has not only cultivated a reputation as a “class act” among developers, but has also solidified partnerships with corporations like Vail Resorts, Hyatt Hotels, and Booth Creek.
Booth Creek, owners of Northstar-at-Tahoe, and the fourth largest resort owner and operator in North America, was founded in 1996 by former Vail Resorts owner George Gillett.
The partnership between Booth Creek and East West manifested itself into a series of agreements, announced last fall, on properties in and outside of Northstar.
They include long term leases with the owners of Coyote Moon golf course and Sunsets on the Lake restaurant, in addition to joint development projects at Northstar and the 790-acre parcel now known as Meadowbrook (formerly PC-2).
With formal plans for their developments in Truckee yet to be submitted, meetings between East West, town officials and community groups have been primarily informational.
“We don’t really have any formal relationship with East West,” said Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook.
Mountain Area Preservation Foundation spokeswoman Stefanie Olivieri said while communication between her organization and East West has been “very good and open,” MAPF can’t comment on the proposed developments until “we have done a more through examination.”
Still, the company’s mode of operations, which puts a premium on communication and cooperation with town officials and planners, seems to have followed them west.
“I am impressed with their interest and commitment to addressing issues like affordable housing,” said Lashbrook.
“We needed some other things to supplement the development at Northstar,” said Roger Lessman, manager of East West Partners/Tahoe, in an interview with Maia Schneider last month on Tahoe Truckee Community Television. “We saw an opportunity here that, I think, I hope, the whole community can benefit from Our investment in this community is significant We intend to be here a long time.”
When asked how the whole community can benefit from resort development, Lessman said when “(East West) can get genuinely quality people to come to the community and spend money, a lot of things come out of that.”
Lessman described Beaver Creek, Colo., where East West has participated in a number of developments, as a “very intense resort development” that is self sustaining.
“The contributions it makes to the community are huge. The county reaps a significant amount of tax (revenue) from Beaver Creek” while providing very limited services to the area, he said.
“Certainly, the Town of Truckee will benefit economically from (the Meadowbrook and Woodlands) developments, (including) sales and property tax, transit occupancy tax and, recreationally, with access at some level to one of the golf courses.”
However, some environmentalists in Colorado said large scale developments in Vail Valley, Summit and Eagle counties have not only failed to produce community wide benefits, but have compromised the very fabric of the towns.
“When you put that kind of money in homes, restaurants and high end shops, it drives working people out of the (area). They are specifically designed for the two-week visitor from Chicago or Dallas,” said Carmi Mclean with Clean Water Action in Denver. “The people who have benefitted are Vail and Associates. In Vail, we have developed ourselves out of a sense of community.”
Not surprisingly, Lessman said East West doesn’t believe resort developments and viable, working communities are mutually exclusive.
“We don’t think they are inconsistent, especially in places like Meadowbrook,” he said. Lessman specially cited the over 400 single family lots for sale at Meadowbrook and 100 units of affordable housing the development will provide.
East West acquired the Meadowbrook parcel from the Hopkins family last fall. The existing plan, consistent with the Truckee General Plan, called for 600 homes in a resort community. Preliminary plans indicate East West has made only minor adaptations to the plan after acquisition.
“When we started doing our land plan, we focused on two areas: golf and our residential plan,” Lessman said. “You need to decide what you are going to be and do it really well.
We try to do what we are best at, and that’s residential.”
The 600 units will consist of approximately 400 single family lots, 100 multi-family lots and 100 affordable housing units situated around an 18-hole golf course, with “some form of lodging a possibility.”
Lots on the northern part of the parcel have been pulled in towards the center of the development, increasing the size of the buffer zone between the development and Prosser Lakeview Estates.
East West has also reduced the amount of proposed commercial space in the development from 175,000 square feet to approximately 25,000 square feet, and, according to Lessman, reduced the number of roads by about 20 percent.
He said 45 acres on the western portion of the parcel, near Alder Drive, have been given to the school district and the Truckee Donner Recreation and Parks District.
A highly visible 13 acre triangular parcel that will be bordered by Highway 89 north and the State Route 267 Bypass is also being considered for preservation and/or public recreational uses.
Lessman said “If it is the conclusion of the town and the public is for (the 13 acres) never to be developed, so be it.”
Lessman cited the large percentage of single family lots in Meadowbrook, along with approximately 100 affordable housing units, “open to anybody,” as being conducive to creating a neighborhood.
However, Lessman didn’t have any idea how many of those lots would result in year round residences.
“I don’t know what the percentage of second homes (in Meadowbrook) will be,” he said.
The acquisition of the adjacent 900 acre Featherstone development in April made East West the single largest landowner in the town of Truckee.
Previously under the ownership of Ken Hoffman and Robert Schwartz, the original development, dubbed Featherstone, was approved for 232 timeshare, or fractional ownership homes, tennis courts and a swimming pool.
The parcel is zoned Open Space Recreational, and is required to have 90 percent open space, though golf courses are considered open space on this parcel.
But East West has made significant changes to that plan, most notably in the number and type of units and the addition of an 18-hole golf course.
The new development proposes WHAT IS #??? multi-family fractional ownership units, about 70 single fractional ownership homes and 100 whole ownership, single family units.
“We like to provide a mix of product,” Lessman said, “including a clustering of neighborhoods interspersed with golf.”
Similar to Meadowbrook, Lessman cited the large number of single family, whole ownership lots “which should provide a sense of community.”
Lessman did note, however, that “the Woodlands will be tilted more towards tourist traffic,” with a private 18-hole golf course, a “more elaborate pool” and 10-12 tennis courts.
Year round destinations
“These two projects together will significantly enhance the towns stance in the tourist industry,” Lessman said. “Combined with Coyote Moon, combined with Northstar and the recreational opportunities out there, we will be able to market all of these projects as a complete vacation or recreation package.”
Lessman said this package, coupled with the relatively quick transition from winter to summer in the Sierra, and Truckee’s proximity to several major population centers only a few hours drive away, will allow East West to market on a truly year round basis.
“Certainly the summer and winter are the focus, but we think we will have some success marketing the shoulder seasons.”
If East West is successful in marketing the spring shoulder season, Truckee may truly become a year round resort area, as others in the business community have noticed an increased tourism in the fall.
“Fall is the time I have really seen pick up during the last five or six years,” said Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce President Rachelle Pellissier.
Central to the transformation to a year-round destination resort area is golf.
“It’s not just about skiing anymore. There is a trend towards more year round recreation and golf is a major component of that business There are over a dozen golf courses in the Vail Valley alone,” said Lessman.
If their plans are approved, Lessman said East West hopes to break ground the golf course at the Woodlands, a Jack Nicklaus signature course, sometime next spring.
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