Truckee council and planning commission discuss future of land use

TRUCKEE, Calif. — The Truckee Town Council and Planning Commission provided feedback on elements of the 2040 General Plan and Draft Downtown Truckee Plan during their joint Tuesday evening meeting but discussion on the plan is far from over.

The plan is an update on the 2025 General Plan and focuses on several policies and actions to achieve the town’s goals, including protecting the town’s character, increasing housing opportunities, meeting demand for industrial areas and protecting the river and other open spaces. 

Discussion of the plan is being broken into several elements. Tuesday night’s discussion focused on land use and noise and safety. 

This discussion started with remarks from Truckee Mayor Courtney Henderson.

“This is one of the most important decisions as elected and appointed officials that we’ll make during our tenure. We have been given this great responsibility to lay out and define the blueprint for our community for the next 20 years,” Henderson said. “I want to make sure everyone here has the opportunity to provide comments, thoughts and to really weigh in in alignment with your conscience and your vision for the community.” 

She also discussed the importance of compromise.  

While there was very little public turnout for the discussion, town staff has received feedback from the public through the online commenting platform. 

Several themes arose in the comments including concerns about the pace of growth and the ability to accommodate additional growth, housing for full-time residents, policies and programs to deal with the existing deficient conditions and zoning for lower density but allowing for flexibility in the future. 

One topic discussed was the possibility of expanding the town’s sphere of influence, which would apply to the town’s ability to annex land. The issue was raised by Councilmember Jan Zabriskie who said he’d like the town to use their sphere of influence to protect open spaces. 

“In the 2006 discussion of the current plan we decided … in regard to annexation, we’re not going to annex anything unless it’s for development purposes,” Zabriskie said. “I’m looking at it now because we’re going to see increasing pressure for development outside of the town. I’ve been of a mind that we want to focus on in-fill housing and preserve the outside areas for reasons of reducing [vehicle miles traveled], having a place to go recreate in the natural environment and reduce wildfire risk.”

The other council members and planners were generally in favor of this, agreeing that if the town didn’t step up to the table and express interest in the land, other people would.

Another large topic of discussion was balancing the town’s industrial needs with other community goals such as river revitalization and VMT reduction. 

Commissioner Daniel Fraiman was strongly in opposition of reducing the industrial zoning area, stating rather that the town should focus on incentivizing businesses to use that space. 

He also mentioned that the businesses that were moved out of the industrial zone into a smaller area haven’t thrived the way the town had hoped, which is why reducing the zone size even further isn’t a great idea. 

There was general consensus that the town should look into the area around the airport for possible industrial space because there is clearly a need for more year-round industries in Truckee. 

The General Plan discussion briefly touched on workforce housing. The plan recommended focusing development on workforce housing in concentrated areas near business districts and transportation hubs. 

While the thought behind the recommendation was for the convenience of placing housing near jobs which could allow for reduction in VMTs, council members and commissioners pushed back, stating they were getting “dangerously close to redlining.” Instead they wanted to see workforce housing built throughout the whole town. 

However, Commissioner Suzie Tarnay said the definition of workforce housing wasn’t clear and until the town defined that, further discussion on the topic would be unproductive. 

Town staff said they will be continuing to take comments and questions from councilors, commissioners and the public and an updated draft will be brought back in September. However, Tarnay, along with commissioners Nikki Riley and Ruth Miller didn’t feel like Tuesday’s discussion went deep enough.  

“I expected more controversy, the fact that land use – we’ve had so many meetings, so much input, so much interest in land use and then we had three items for discussion for this group that were all fairly straight-forward and we had consensus. I know staff has a big plan but I expected more controversy and a little more input on items that required more input,” Miller said. 

“I wanted to talk about policy issues. I have a sense, for myself, maybe other Commissioners, maybe members of the public, feel that the policies as written are really not in line with the direction of the 2040 plan,” Riley added. 

After discussion of the General Plan, there was a brief conversation about the Downtown Truckee Plan. 

That plan hasn’t been updated since 1997 and while it did have some visionary plans for the district, it did not include a lot of action items. 

Vice Mayor Lindsay Romack said a lot of the art and informational signs in Downtown Truckee highlights the European aspect of the town’s history, while she’d like to seen indigenous history included, as well as the history of the Chinese workers who helped build the railroad and other parts of the town. 

They also discussed putting a parking garage in Downtown and while there was some support for that, Zabriskie said he’d rather focus on shuttles and public transportation. 

The Historic Preservation Advisory Commission will be reviewing the plan during their Aug. 12 meeting, after which, it will come back to the council for a more in-depth conversation. 

During the council’s next meeting on July 19, they will be discussing the transportation and mobility element of the General Plan. 

To see the plan and to make comment on it, visit

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