Truckee, Placer agree on Siller employee housing
Truckee and Placer County have compromised on a more comprehensive employee housing plan for a luxury home project in the Martis Valley. The agreement signals that the town does not plan to further challenge the Siller Ranch project even though the specific location of the employee housing remains up in the air. While some Truckee officials heralded the agreement as a triumph of collaboration between the two jurisdictions, doubts still linger over the lack of specifics relating to housing the workers that the project will attract. Placer County’s approval of Siller Ranch, a 726-home resort project with 27 holes of golf southwest of the Lahontan subdivision, prompted the town to appeal the project in July of last year. At the time, Truckee officials said the project’s employee housing conditions were vague and inadequate.The revised requirements, worked out between Truckee and Placer County planners through several meeting over the last month, will require that the developer build housing for 245 workers somwhere in eastern Placer County, and the employee housing be available before the 2,177-acre Siller Ranch project goes up. Placer planner recommended in December that only 124 workers would need to be housed.The requirements will be considered at a Jan. 18 Placer County Board of Supervisors meeting in Auburn.While the compromise does not fulfill the town’s request that employee housing be an integral part of the Siller Ranch application, it represents almost double the amount of employee housing recommended by Placer County at their December meeting. The employee housing project tied to the Siller Ranch proposal will be a separate project with a separate environmental review. If the Town of Truckee had its choice, according to Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook, the employee housing would be included in the project. While Placer County’s proposal is not perfect, said Lashbrook at last week’s town council meeting, it is a “reasonable approach and is enforceable.”Under the language of the employee housing proposal, Siller Ranch “cannot proceed until housing is built,” Fred Yeager, Placer County planning director, told town officials last week. “That’s an important consideration.”In a subsequent interview, Councilman Josh Susman said the outcome, if upheld by Placer’s supervisors, is a big improvement over the vague employee housing language that elicited the town’s appeal.”Part of the reason we did the appeal is we felt that the ongoing direction of [Placer County] staff to the planning commission and the supervisors was that all the details of the affordable housing would be worked out after the fact,” said Susman.Placer County has now nailed down a specific number of employees that must be housed, tied it to the phased building of Siller Ranch and received an official commitment from the developer and the county that the units will be built, Susman said. And while the location of the housing is a concern, the negotiations, he said, yielded a “tremendous gain.””We established a precedent of dealing with Placer County, of collaboration on impacts that cross political boundaries,” Susman said.Still, one issue that troubles those concerned with the direction of Martis Valley development is where the employee housing will actually end up. For Stefanie Olivieri, who represents the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, the ambiguity over the affordable housing’s location is too large of an issue to ignore. “Decision makers and the public have a right to know where that housing will be built,” Olivieri told council members on Thursday. Councilwoman Barbara Green said that if the Siller Ranch employee housing item had gone to a vote she would have voted against it because no location for the housing has been identified.”I’m still concerned about the location of the housing,” said Green. “It’s very unspecified and that disturbs me.” Rachelle Pellissier, executive director of the Workforce Housing Association of Truckee Tahoe, said that the outcome of negotiations over the affordable housing may not be exactly what either side was hoping for, but it represents a good compromise. “A lot of this has to be collaboration,” said Pellissier. “Truckee can’t tell Placer County how to do their planning and neither can Placer County tell Truckee how to do their planning”The agreement signaled progress in the way Placer County deals with affordable housing, Pellissier said, and similar projects in the future will likely show the effects of the compromise struck over Siller Ranch.”To this point this is the biggest step forward we have had with Placer County in regard to affordable housing,” said Pellissier.Meanwhile, Truckee will send a letter to Placer County showing support for the revised conditions. The town’s amicus brief, supporting portions of a broader lawsuit against the Martis Valley Community Plan filed by five environmental groups, is not effected by the negotiations over Siller Ranch, said Town Manager Steve Wright. “The brief still stands with the court,” said Wright. “We raised both housing and traffic issues [in the brief].”- Jamie Bate contributed to this article.Check it outThe Placer County Board of Supervisors will meet to decide the employee housing requirements for Siller Ranch on January 18 at 1:30 p.m. at the county administrative center, 175 Fulweiler Ave. in Auburn. The meeting can be heard live by calling 530-886-5225.