Truckee Town Council allows Tahoe Donner Ski Lodge Project to move forward

TRUCKEE, Calif. – The Truckee Town Council heard an appeal for the Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Lodge project during their Tuesday, Nov. 14 meeting.

The Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Lodge Appeal was raised with a recommended action to adopt Resolution 2023-62. The resolution included adopting an Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for the project, upholding the Planning Commission’s decision to approve the Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Lodge, denying the appeal against the Planning Commission’s decision, and approving the Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Lodge Replacement Development Permit, Minor Use Permit, and Sign Plan. The applicants sought permits for ground disturbance, a new nonresidential building, a minor use permit for land disturbance near a wetland, and approval for a sign plan. 

The Council was tasked with ensuring consistency with development code standards, reviewing the project’s site layout and design, and preventing any impact on the wetland. Construction measures were outlined to minimize dust, air pollution, and protect wildlife during the process.

Concerns were raised during the appeal, including worries about the lodge’s size, cost, and environmental impact. Tahoe Donner Change, representing over 1,100 homeowners, called for modifications to the permit, such as a full Environmental Impact Report and clear enforcement mechanisms for land usage. 

The Director of Capital Projects for Tahoe Donner, Jon Mitchell, addressed concerns about dewatering, stormwater treatment, and sustainable building practices. Despite the appeal, many community members expressed support for the project, emphasizing the need for a modernized ski lodge. The council ultimately decided to allow the Tahoe Donner Ski Lodge project to move forward.

During the public comment session, multiple Gateway residents voiced concerns regarding the Pacific Crest Commons Affordable Housing Project, particularly its proposal to open Donner Pass Rd. The “Gateway Area” covers a 2-mile stretch along Donner Pass Road from Coldstream Road to the McIver Crossing Roundabout.

Many residents strongly opposed this, emphasizing Donner Way’s role as a communal walking space and expressing worries about safety, given the presence of young children and elderly individuals frequently on the streets. They argued that opening Donner Way might lead to it becoming a thoroughfare for ski traffic. Importantly, while advocating to keep Donner Way closed to vehicles, the residents of Gateway made it clear that they are not against the concept of affordable housing.

One resident suggested that if Donner Way must be utilized, it should be reserved exclusively for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. Another resident proposed practical alternatives for the neighborhood, such as utilizing the vacant parking lot in the bank. Additionally, he recommended designating Donner Way as a fire exit only, discouraging its use as a shortcut to downtown.

Another resident highlighted the well-established and tranquil nature of Gateway. She drew attention to the public health movement, urging town designers to prioritize community well-being. Commending Truckee for its trail creation efforts, she expressed concern about the potential disturbance to the neighborhood’s tranquility from the proposed development.

Yet another resident emphasized the unique opportunity to develop the area mindfully, expressing confidence that this could be achieved without encountering significant challenges during this crucial development phase.

There was no agenda item regarding the project so council was unable to discuss the topic.

Also during the meeting, a proclamation was made to honor Vangie Wightman, a dedicated member of the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission, who has served on the commission for 17 years. Appointed to the advisory commission by the town council on May 5, 2005, Wightman, a highly qualified licensed architect with experience as the Director of Architecture Review at Martis Camp, has consistently demonstrated a deep understanding of preservation goals. The proclamation expressed gratitude and appreciation for Wightman’s 17 years of service.

In response, Wightman praised the exemplary quality of character among her fellow commissioners, emphasizing the thoughtful and engaged nature of the group. “Each of my fellow commissioners prompted me to raise my game,” Wightman said.

In recognition of Gratitude Month and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, each member of the Council selected an organization to highlight as recipients of gratitude awards. Acknowledging the numerous individuals who dedicate countless hours to shaping the essence of Truckee, Klovstad expressed extreme gratitude for the Truckee Watershed Council, emphasizing the organization’s comprehensive impact on the entire watershed. She extended thanks to the donors who support state and local grants, expressing the deepest gratitude for their contributions. 

Henderson highlighted the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee, emphasizing its role in cultivating community connection and supporting STEM education. Henderson also commended the organization for providing turkey dinner kits to families in need. Zabriskie focused on the Truckee River Legacy Foundation, emphasizing their efforts to make the river more accessible, particularly through the initiation and conception of the Legacy Trail. 

Polivy recognized the volunteer members of the Truckee Art Commission, emphasizing the group’s progress since 2020 and the identification of sites for future art. And lastly, Romack expressed gratitude for the Tahoe Ability Program, a newer organization in the community that focuses on fostering inclusion and advancement for people with developmental disabilities. Romack highlighted the program’s diverse activities, including cooking classes, parties, and trail outings to enhance mobility.

Recipients of gratitude awards alongside Council members.
Sierra Sun/ Zoe Meyer

The significance of winter weather preparedness was discussed. Go to for information, sign up for CodeRed, and use multiple  sources of information, including commercial radio stations like 101.5 FM / 780 AM, 1670 AM (Truckee Cares), NWS weather alerts, and CalTrans QuickMaps. Be weather-aware and stock up on fuel and food before storms hit. Consider secondary heating sources, and ensure vehicles are winter-ready with good tires, chains, wiper blades, window washer fluid, and an emergency kit. 

To address gridlock traffic due to chain control on Westbound I-80 at the old bug station, efforts were made to keep both WB on-ramps to Jack’s Shell open, with Truckee PD assisting during morning ski traffic on SR89 South/West River Street. A public information working group is being established to enhance communication between state, local, and private agency partners.

Meteorologist Dawn Johnson, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Reno, provided insights into this year’s winter outlook. Despite being in a moderately strong El Niño, Johnson highlighted the considerable variation between dry and wet winters during El Niño years. While strong El Niños tend to be wetter than normal, moderate ones can range from incredibly wet to dry. The forecast predicts near to above normal snowfall during El Niño years, with the possibility of significant snowfall even if it’s half of the previous winter. Basically, it’s a crapshoot. 

Johnson emphasized the unpredictability of winter outcomes, cautioning about the potential for long dry stretches and the varied risks, including flooding, large snowstorms, cold spells, inside sliders, wind storms, and fires in dormant and dry grasses. While large fires are not a major concern presently, Johnson recommended staying informed through the National Weather Service on social media @NWSReno or calling 775-673-8107 for 24/7 weather support.

The Council considered the Visit Truckee-Tahoe Strategic Plan and Truckee Tourism Business Improvement District (TTBID) Annual Report, with the recommended action being the approval of the TTBID 2023-2024 Annual Report. The mission of Visit Truckee-Tahoe is to promote, protect, and enhance Truckee as an authentic mountain town. 

According to Visit Truckee-Tahoe, $66 million in lodging revenue has been collected, with 38% ($24.8 million) from hoteliers, 34% ($22.2 million) from short-term rental property managers, and 28% ($19 million) from short-term rental independent hosts for 2022/23. Visit Truckee-Tahoe recently released an Economic Impact and Travel Report, revealing a tourism economy of $252 million. 

A significant portion of visitor spending, 71.5% ($179.6 million), is attributed to paid lodging guests. The balance is visitor spending by second homeowners, private guests in local’s homes, day visitors, or campers. Hotel guests contribute 37% ($66.3 million), while short-term rental guests contribute 64% ($113.2 million) to the local economy. Paid lodging guests actually spend five times more than day visitors. Over the period of 2019-2022, visitor spending increased by 38%, rising from $182.3 million to $252.1 million. Ultimately, the Council decided to approve the Truckee Tourism Business Improvement District 2023-2024 Annual Report.

The Council addressed the Short-Term Rental Ordinance Clean-Up. Concerns were raised about potential negative impacts on the community if options for short-term rentals were limited. Discussions delved into ongoing parking violations in Donner Pass, leading to neighbor frustration, and worries about potential retaliation from STR owners. The need to enforce parking requirements was emphasized.

Council members expressed concerns about the documentation of complaints or violations, viewing it as a short-term solution that necessitated a more comprehensive and robust approach. Disagreements arose over the burden of proof for STR owners and the lack of clarity in the current ordinance. While there was unanimous agreement that the existing situation was not optimal, reaching a consensus on a cleaner and more effective solution remained a challenge. The pressing need for affordable long-term housing was acknowledged as a significant concern but more discussion will need to be had.

Due to exceeding the allotted time, discussions on the Truckee Weatherization Program and the review of the Affordable Housing In-Lieu Fee and Workforce Housing Ordinance were deferred to the next town council meeting.

The next Town Council meeting will be on Tuesday, Nov. 28 at 5 p.m at Town Hall, 10183 Truckee Airport Road.

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