Beware Aspenization of Truckee | SierraSun.com
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Beware Aspenization of Truckee

Ted Owens, Guest columnist

When my parents and grandparents passed through Aspen in 1961, it was a small town known by few as a ranching community. Skiing started the change to Aspen; letting the good times roll lost the town.

Today, most of the people that work in Aspen, do not live there. The carpenters, grocers, gas station attendants, waiters, nurses, and yes, even the sheriff live 40 miles away. They commute to Aspen because they can’t afford to live within the town limits. Homes are plentiful yet far too expensive and as in Truckee, often empty. Second homes, in the case of Aspen, are for the rich and famous.

Yes, things got a little out of hand a few years back what with all the building going on and money pouring into the tills. Times were good. What was there to worry about? Sound familiar? It should, because Truckee may be heading in the same direction. It happens slowly at first, kind of creeps up behind you, lulls you into a false sense of security and before you know it, it’s too late. Your town now belongs to people who may not even live here.

The Tahoe Donner Association is considering significant changes to the design guidelines for new construction. Guidelines that certainly are a derivative of those required in the new Lahontan development that boasts million dollar homes. Without going into great detail about Tahoe Donner’s proposed new requirements, suffice it to say they raise the cost of construction considerably. Ultimately, these requirements severely penalize property owners who are yet to build and reward those who already have built.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my home’s appreciation. I’m also thankful for the healthy building climate in Truckee, it’s my livelihood. This issue goes beyond the status quo.

With a stroke of the pen, an entire subset of potential homebuyers, mostly in the entry-level market are swept away, forced to look to other subdivisions for housing. With increased pressure for affordable housing in these areas combined with scarcity, values here too will rise pushing things farther out of reach for many. Who are we talking about? Only the majority of our community – the work force. Those who actually serve meals in our fine restaurants, greet us at downtown mercantiles, repair burst pipes after a deep freeze, remove snow from our driveways, maintain the golf courses, fill the potholes and build the homes we live in.

Today Truckee offers viable housing alternatives for all with existing subdivisions. It makes for quite a diverse community. Although not in the town limits, Lahontan is a new subdivision that has very tight construction requirements. Lahontan chose to implement them from the very beginning. New subdivisions such as proposed for PC-2, would extend this trend into the future. There is room for everyone without excluding those that are the backbone of this community – those who work and live here.

Changing markets

Tahoe Donner has changed greatly in the past 10 years. The market has evolved naturally. Homes have been built both large, small, of high quality and entry level – all without manipulation of the market. During that time, property values have escalated in spite of a Californian recession.

It seems strange that Tahoe Donner, 20 some years later and two-thirds built out, should embark on such a departure from current practices. On its face it doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Upon closer examination however, the ramifications for Truckee locals and as a town, are far reaching. The economics will affect us all. Maybe not at first, but eventually. The decision of the board will affect more than Tahoe Donner; it will ripple through the entire community.

Imagine, years from now what it would be like in Truckee if most of the working members of the community drove in from Sierraville, Satley, Verdi, Mogul or Reno each day to work. Its not unrealistic, look at Aspen.

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