Imaginary park clears final hurdles |

Imaginary park clears final hurdles

Talk of the Town, Heidi Scoble and Robie Wilson Litchfield

During our pre-application meeting for our hypothetical amusement park project -the Railroad Mountain Fun Center – with Community Development Director Tony Lashbrook and Town Planner Duane Hall, we received a tremendous amount of information and solid guidance in helping prepare us for assembling an application package for formal submittal for a use permit to the town planning division.

The outdoor commercial recreation land use requires a use permit, to be reviewed by the planning commission. In our hypothetical project, it is not permitted on the Mill Site without serious amendments to the Downtown Specific Plan and General Plan. Our next option was to find an alternate location.

We were able to find a more suitable site for our project, the Barsell Property at the east end of Donner Pass Road and I-80. Then we were given the tools to put together a plan that complies with local codes and land use regulations, including the Town of Truckee General Plan, the Downtown Specific Plan and Development Code. In addition we received a checklist of items necessary for our submittal.

Whew! This all seems so overwhelming. And rightly so – there is an abundance of information in these documents and sifting through them is a daunting task. But with the help of Tony and Duane in a subsequent pre-application meeting, we were able to narrow down just what was required for our package. All these meetings and all these documents may appear overwhelming, but in actuality they are designed to help keep you organized, on track with potential project issues, and most important, they keep one’s head from spinning.

The pre-application conference is a meeting between a planner and the developer.

The purpose of the meeting is to again identify any land use issues and consistencies with the governing documents – those mentioned above – prior to formal submittal to the planning division. The alternative, or complement, to the conference is the preliminary plan review. This is a more thorough preliminary review whereby a full set of architectural plans are submitted to the planning division and a planner reviews the project.

A meeting would also be arranged between the planner and the applicant to run through the project submittal and identify any issues that may need to be addressed prior to formal submittal. The primary difference between the two processes is that with the preliminary plan review, a detailed letter is drafted to identify all issues related to the plan.

As with a majority of large project proponents, we chose to go through both with special attention on a preliminary plan review. But first we needed to assemble our package. Our checklist for the use permit, which can be downloaded off the town’s Web site or picked up at town hall, proved very helpful in organizing our package.

In our package we are required to provide for our Amusement Park Plan Use Permit, which will ultimately be reviewed by the planning commission, a site plan, preliminary grading plan, preliminary landscape plan and building elevations, as well as letters of justification.

You may be wondering who prepares such things. Well, it can be a combination of an architect, landscape architect, and/or engineer. There are also private planners out there that can help you.

During our preliminary meeting, Tony and Duane indicated that we will also be required to have a traffic study prepared by town consultants, a cultural heritage study, a biological assessment and wetlands delineation, and a geotechnical (soils) study. This information will help the planning division determine which type of environmental document is necessary for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

We are hoping for a negative declaration, which is basically stating that the project will not have any significant environmental impact to the site, but Tony has indicated that due to the size, scale, and amount of traffic the amusement park could generate, the project will most likely require an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Once our preliminary plan review was complete, we received a letter from the planning division which identified issues that needed to be addressed.

These included screening from the cemetery and freeway, the height of our Ferris wagon wheel (especially if we wanted to keep the orange, red and green neon lights on it), the proximity of our saloon and tattoo parlor to the children’s petting zoo, and some safety issues associated with our Log Run water slide, among others. We promptly addressed them on our plans and in supporting documents to complete our package.

With the preliminary plan review completed and changes made, our checklist completed, our plans and reports and our deposit check to the town for $3,396 in hand, we are ready to make a formal submittal to the planning division. Note, the deposit fee is based on staff’s hourly time to process the application.

In our next article we will take you through the formal submittal of the application with the planning division, the routing process, determining if we have a complete application and lastly, which type of environmental document will need to be prepared.

In the meantime, remember, before you buy a piece of land or have an idea about developing a piece of land, come first to the planning division to learn what type of land uses are permitted on the land and the type of land use permit you may need to apply for. There is a planner on-call from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Also, don’t forget about the pre-application conference and the preliminary plan review. These are helpful tools that may help you through the land-use permitting process.

Heidi Scoble is associate planner for Truckee, and Robie Wilson Litchfield sits on the Truckee Planning Commission. They can be reached at

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