Truckee’s top stories of 2005
Staff reportsBattle over Martis Valley The Martis Valley found itself in the middle of a tug-of-war between developers proposing golf courses and high-end homes, and environmentalists urging preservation of biological resources.The Martis Valley Community Plan, an outline for development in Placer County’s portion of the valley, was adopted in December of 2003, but a coalition of environmental groups headed by Nevada City-based Sierra Watch filed a lawsuit in January. Sierra Watch claimed that the level of development allowed under the plan – over 6,000 new housing units – would ruin the expansive valley.And then the environmental groups got some solid support.California’s attorney general strongly criticized Placer County’s Martis Plan, calling it “deficient” and alleging that it underestimated significant impacts to the region. The Town of Truckee also threw its support behind Sierra Watch’s lawsuit when it became clear that affordable housing in the valley was not going to be created at the level the town expected. Hopkins Ranch, the first subdivision proposal in the Martis Valley under the new plan, was approved by Placer County in January. Sierra Watch sued the approval. Two subsequent proposals, Eaglewood and Siller Ranch, were also appealed by the same five environmental groups. The Town of Truckee, in an unusual step, also appealed the Siller Ranch approval on the basis that affordable housing mitigation was not adequately addressed in the 726-home, golf course project.Eaglewood, which included affordable housing in its project, was approved by Placer County. Siller Ranch has yet to receive the final go-ahead from the county.’The Great American City’ earns $10KThe Great Race, America’s oldest and longest-running vintage car rally, made an overnight stop in Truckee on July 1, and local residents filled historic downtown to get a glimpse of the nearly 100 pre-1959 automobiles roaring into Commercial Row.Along the way Truckee was given the “Great American City” award, worth $10,000, by the drivers and organizers of the coast-to-coast rally. The money was awarded to the Truckee Library. Wayne Stanfield, chief operating officer for Rally Partners, Inc., which puts on the Great Race, said the enthusiastic crowds in Truckee was a highlight as drivers and support crews made their way from Jacksonville, Fla., to Monterey over a two-week period. “What really did it for Truckee was the friendliness, the atmosphere, the hospitality and of course the great setting,” Stanfield said in July. “There was something about Truckee that people really loved.” Local pastor Wayne Hoag, a Great Race veteran wasn’t surprised. “The racers were blown away by the Truckee reception and it won by a huge margin,” he said.Truckee High takes football championshipThe Truckee Tahoe High School Wolverines football team rolled over Moapa Valley 28-0 to win the state championship on Nov. 20 in Las Vegas.The final win was the tenth straight for Big Red, with the team outscoring opponents 471-92 on the way to a 10-1 overall record. During its three playoff games, the Wolverines defense did not allow a point – and had five shutouts over the season. After dropping their first game – a non-league contest against a higher division team – Truckee bounced back with a vengeance. Truckee’s defense gave up no points in the Northern 3A playoffs and only three in the final four games of the season. “This is beyond words; a feeling I’ve never had before,” Truckee’s senior safety Randon Nunez said after the championship game in Las Vegas. “We have great chemistry, and we fly to the ball (on defense). We’re brothers out there, and we’ve been doing it since Pop Warner. It’s always been that way.” The Wolverines last state championship came in 2001, when they defeated Moapa Valley 14-7. This year, each team came into the championship game with only one loss. Truckee jumped ahead with two first-quarter scores on its first two possessions. The Wolverines expanded on a 14-0 halftime lead with a touchdown on the first drive in the second half to clinch head coach Bob Shaffer’s fourth state championship victory.Gray’s Crossing gets the go-aheadTruckee’s largest development project since the town incorporated in 1993 became a reality when the town council approved Gray’s Crossing in February.The golf course development, located on both sides of Highway 89 north, will eventually add over 460 single-family homes to town, as well as townhomes, lofts, a village center and a lodge.The approval added to developer East West Partners holdings in the area, which include Coyote Moon Golf Course, Old Greenwood and the under-construction Northstar Village.While some Truckee residents objected to another golf course in town, the majority of the town council noted the development’s 225 affordable units and commitment to donating land to the community in voting to approve the project.Roads and utilities were constructed on portions of the 757-acres site during the summer of 2004, and the 101 lots on the western side of Highway 89 sold quickly. The new year will see the construction of 57 affordable units, and infrastructure development on the east side of Highway 89.Airport election draws a crowdEight candidates ran for three open seats in the Truckee Tahoe Airport District election in November, making it possibly the most heated special district election in Truckee’s history.A slate of three candidates, supported by Community Airport Restoration Effort, a grassroots group focused on reducing airport noise, swept the election. Kathleen Eagan, Mary Hetherington and Paul Vatistas, all non-pilots, were sworn in as new board members on Dec. 3.The three candidates pledged to increase community involvement in airport decisions, limit airport growth and work to reduce noise impacts to Truckee and Placer neighborhoods.The slate’s strong showing, when pitted against two incumbents, signaled the voters’ backing of a change in airport leadership.The airport had drawn public attention during the formation of an updated land use plan to ensure the compatibility of airport traffic and surrounding development. The polarization surrounding the controversial plan only heated up as the election drew near, and ended in a high voter turnout within the district.Broadband? Stay tunedIt was a year that featured headlines and headaches for the Truckee Donner Public Utility District as the district’s proposed broadband network created quite a stir in town and in the courtroom.In July the price tag of the proposed fiber-to-the-user network, which has been in the works for almost five years, went from $17 to $24 million, prompting questions from the district’s rate payers about the need for such an expensive venture.Then in August, the Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) signed off on the district’s plan to build the optical network. But a September appeal by Cebridge Connections, which bought out local cable provider USA Media that month, sent the district’s plan back to LAFCo for further review.In mid-October, LAFCo commissioners dismissed Cebridge’s concerns and reaffirmed their confidence in the district’s ability to finance and build the fiber network. However, a lawsuit filed by Cebridge in California Superior Court has once again stalled the district’s plans to finance the project.In the meantime, members of the local community and other Internet and telephone service providers serving Truckee customers have weighed in both in support of and opposition to the district’s plan.Stay tuned.A college campus for TruckeeAfter Measure E, the first bid to build a Sierra College campus in Truckee failed in the college’s four districts in the March 2004 Primary Election, Measure H, a local effort, passed with nearly 70 percent approval on Nov. 2.The $35 million bond measure will not only bring a permanent Sierra College campus to Truckee, it will also ensure that the Truckee Donner Land Trust will buy roughly 50 percent of the 72-acre McIver Hill campus site and protect it as open space. Property owners will pay between $15 and $16 per $100,000 assessed value on their homes over approximately 25 years to pay for the 40,000-square-foot permanent campus.”Now all of us have the revenue stream to complete our dreams, to have a college campus in Truckee,” said Frank DeCourten, dean of the Truckee campus, not long after the election. DeCourten expects the planning process for the campus to take most of 2005. This will include workshops and gathering community input on the design of the campus and the program at Sierra College Truckee. The campus is projected to open in fall 2008, but DeCourten’s money is on an earlier date. “I think if we work hard on this, we may be able to come in a little sooner with a campus,” he said.Green school opens its doorsWith floors made of post-consumer products and its ground-source heating under campus, Alder Creek Middle School is easily one of the most environmentally friendly schools in California.”I just love the whole building; it’s probably the most well-thought-out building in Truckee,” said Principal Susan Phebus just before the first day of school.The builders faced a tight construction schedule but managed to open the main doors of Sierra Mountain Middle School’s replacement in time for the first day of class. The preparations for the portables, which came from the old Prosser Creek Charter School campus, lagged behind the rest of the construction.The 87,000-square-foot school sits on a 35-acre campus and includes 19 classrooms, a cafetorium, administrative offices and a library. Outside there’s an NCAA-sized synthetic turf soccer field. Designers used day-lighting to illuminate most of its rooms and hallways.Alder Creek’s $31 million project cost was funded mostly through Measure C, a school facilities bond passed by local voters in 1999. The school district also received $7.2 million in state grants to build the campus.Tahoe lake level drops early Lake Tahoe dropped below its natural rim in early September, evidence of the most severe drought to hit the region in 10 years. In 2004, the famed lake fell below its rim approximately two months earlier than it did in 2003. That meant that the Truckee River had only ground water and flows from its tributaries to keep it from going completely dry.Windy and dry conditions spurred an evaporation rate of almost 1.2 billion gallons per day from Sept. 14 through Sept. 16, about 900 times the amount of water the lake loses to Truckee River flows.Donner Lake also showed signs of the water squeeze, as the Truckee Carson Irrigation District and the Truckee Meadows Water Authority pulled their water earlier and faster from the lake. Water levels fell more than a foot every four days from mid-September to the middle of October. Fall Skiing? Resorts report record early openings Skiers and Snowboarders were riding October powder at the resorts around Truckee after strong winter storms showed up early. The early but welcome snow allowed Boreal to open operations on Oct. 21 – the resort’s earliest opening on record. Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley U.S.A. and Sugar Bowl followed suit shortly afterward in what became the earliest openings for many of those resorts in more than a decade. The October openings boosted the resorts’ revenues for the early winter, and bolstered a Sierra snowpack that many hope will help end a regional drought.