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Visions of the future; CARE: Broad-based, grassroots coalition

DAN FOSCALINA

A group of town business owners and residents says it has united in an alliance with one objective – to keep the community informed on planning issues and their potential to impact Truckee’s economy.

The Community Alliance for a Responsible Environment and Economy for Truckee – CARE – is a grassroots, non-profit organization that says its aim is protecting Truckee’s mountain lifestyle while recognizing the need to accommodate growth. In just about one month, the group has garnered more than 50 supporters.

“CARE was formed by a broad-based group of Truckee residents to provide a forum for citizens to express their views and concerns for the long-term future of Truckee,” said Ron Hemig, CARE steering committee member. Hemig is a Realtor and Truckee-Donner Public Utility District board president.

Its immediate concern, however, is the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation’s initiative to amend Truckee’s general plan. The initiative targets land uses approved under the general plan for Planned Community 2, a 789-acre development area located north of the Highway 89-Interstate 80 intersection.

If passed by voters in November, the initiative would reduce potential commercial space square footage at PC-2 from 175,000 to 25,000 and eliminate the site’s potential for a resort hotel and recreation facility.

In addition, future amendments to the general plan regarding PC-2 would require a majority vote of the public. The initiative also mandates a two-thirds public vote to change any resource conservation-open space land designations to another land use or to add land uses not listed. The public vote requirement would end Dec. 31, 2020.

Developers have planned, but not submitted to town planners, a mixed-use project on PC-2 called Boca Sierra Estates. The project summary provides for 368 acres of open space, 329 acres of clustered residential housing, 50 acres for commercial and office space, 22 acres for lodging and recreational uses and earmarks 20 acres for public use.

“We have before us an initiative to defeat a suggested plan of land use that has not even been presented to the planning commission,” Hemig said. “Shouldn’t we ask why?”

CARE’s steering committee stands behind the general plan and the land-use designations town staff worked more than three years to complete, including “countless” public meetings. In terms of PC-2, CARE members said they believe the general plan effectively shelters existing businesses.

“We feel there is adequate protection for the downtown in the general plan structure,” Larry Young, former MAPF president and CARE steering committee member, said.

Young, who is also a Truckee architect, said in a two-year period, Donner Gate Plaza, Gateway Shopping Center and Tahoe-Truckee Factory Outlet Stores – representing about the same 175,000 square-feet of commercial development currently allowed at PC-2 – were developed and “they didn’t ruin the downtown.”

“The general plan requires any development outside of downtown to prepare and pay for an economic analysis that proves no detrimental impact on downtown Truckee and the community as a whole before that development can be built,” Young said.

Another point of contention CARE has with the initiative centers on its preserving residential development at PC-2, but reducing commercial space. By cutting back the commercial space at PC-2 but allowing construction of some 600 new homes, the initiative will increase congestion at other commercial areas such as the Crossroads and Gateway shopping centers, CARE members claim.

“More people will be crammed into an already congested space,” Steering Committee Member and Truckee attorney Bob Tamietti said.

CARE members said according to Nevada County records, Truckee’s population has increased by 28 percent, growing from 8,912 residents in 1990 to 11,451 this year. Also, the number of registered voters has increased by almost 50 percent over the same time period, from 4,740 to 7,066.

“These are two very reliable measures of growth,” CARE member and Tahoe Donner Association President Sam Lemon said. “And all of this with more than 3,500 residential lots existing inside town boundaries. The real issue is not whether Truckee will grow, rather it’s how fast and in what form?”

Tamietti added the general plan is based on an estimated 265 new homes being built each year over a 20-year period. Included are homes approved in the Glenshire and Tahoe Donner subdivisions, as well as development areas identified in the general plan – PC-1 near the Teichert property on Coldstream Way and PC-3 on Highway 267 between the Truckee-Tahoe Airport and the Best Western Truckee-Tahoe Inn.

“Where will those new people shop for essential services like groceries?” Tamietti said. “Where will their children attend school?”

This “lack of balance” that CARE members contend will result should the initiative pass, forces builders to look outside of Truckee.

“If we make balanced growth impossible in Truckee, the increased demand for essential services may well be met outside of town, denying Truckee the revenue in property and sales taxes and leaving us with all of the negative impacts to quality of life,” Tamietti said.

CARE members also said they believe government by initiative is risky and characterized it as “a vehicle used by special interest groups.” According to CARE, the initiative process circumvents general plan procedures providing for public comment.

“At the heart of any municipal general plan is the touchy issue of land use,” Lemon said. “But that realization is why the general plan process provides for ample public dialogue before the ultimate decision is made by the town council.

“The initiative process shuts off that dialogue and that is not the way to run local government.”

CARE members contend information circulated by initiative proponents has been less than accurate, alleging many petition signers were persuaded into signing the initiative to stop Walmart or Home Depot from locating on PC-2.

“There is no Walmart, Home Depot or K-Mart proposed for the Boca Sierra project. The general plan specifically precludes ‘big box’ development everywhere in Truckee, limiting all structures to no more than 40,000 square feet,” Tamietti said. “(And) that is roughly the size of the Safeway store in the Gateway Center.”

CARE members also identified several known and anticipated costs facing Truckee residents should the general plan amendment initiative pass. First on the list is the funding of election costs, which county election officials have estimated between $2,500 and $3,000.

Also, the town could be forced to pay legal fees defending the amendment in court if the initiative is determined to be a takings issue. Town Attorney J. Dennis Crabb said although unlikely, a takings case in court could range from $10,000 for a case where a summary adjudication is granted, or $50,000 if the case made it to trial court.

“At this point the question is one for the voters,” Crabb said in a letter to the Truckee Town Council. “Are they willing to adopt the initiative, understanding that there may be significant costs in defending and administering it? If so, it becomes a democratically mandated cost of doing business, which was fully disclosed in the election proceedings.”

Indirectly, costs of a 20-acre school site, an 8-acre soccer field and a new location for a fire station could fall onto the shoulders of Truckee taxpayers, CARE members said. CARE members also cited the town’s estimate of $997,000 that would be lost in room, property and sales taxes after a hotel facility is removed from PC-2.


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