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MAPF, the initiative and Boca Sierra

Dan Foscalina

Spring is in the air and with it comes blooming flowers, green grass, sunny weather and an initiative aimed at limiting the amount of commercial space allocated to a developer project on Planned Community 2, a 789-acre parcel near the Highway 89-Interstate 80 intersection.

Some people favor the proposed development – called Boca Sierra Estates – that divvies the 789 acres between open space, clustered residential housing, commercial and office, lodging and recreation and public land uses.

Developers maintain the project will bolster Truckee’s economy, creating mixed uses that make for a sustainable community where residents don’t have to travel to Reno for goods and services. They also contend Truckee has the potential to be an economic hub in the Sierra – it already has the infrastructure, an airport and intersecting highways – and to say no to development is “ludicrous.” Enhancing the hub potential “is good planning,” they say.

There are, however, those people who oppose Boca Sierra. In fact, there are several organizations and individuals in town that would rather die than see the developers break ground. The Mountain Area Preservation Foundation is at the head of the opposition, and is in the process of circulating a petition that would leave the fate of the town’s general plan – and ultimately Boca Sierra – up to the voters.

Specifically, MAPF wants to reduce the amount of commercial development Truckee’s general plan allows on PC-2 from 175,000 to 15,000 square feet. The initiative would also prevent construction of a golf course and lodging facility, provide an additional 300 acres for recreational uses and preserve existing general plan policies for schools, libraries, fire stations and residential development.

“We don’t think that citizens of Truckee want this kind of commercial sprawl that will result in increased traffic congestion, loss of open space scenic vistas, animal habitat and erode the existing commercial core,” Carla Stokes, initiative signer and MAPF board member, said.

Stokes said the issue at hand pertains to land use in the general plan and not the Boca Sierra project itself. The general plan gives allowances for land use in different projects, and Stokes questioned why it allows for the maximum commercial space – 175,000 square feet – for PC-2.

By pursuing the initiative and an amendment to the general plan, MAPF and other concerned citizens are striving for “good planning,” Stokes said. The initiative should not be confused with a lack of faith in the planning process or trying to get town residents to choose sides.

“This is a land use issue and we are not anti-Boca Sierra; we are dealing with the general plan and this issue can only be dealt with by amending it,” Stokes said. “It is not a question of growth or no growth, it is a question of good planning.”

MAPF President Stefanie Olivieri said the project isn’t being attacked by the initiative, but the land uses designated for PC-2. “There is no project to attack. There is a land use designation given to that property and that is what the amendment targets,” she said.

In talking with Town Planner Elizabeth Eddins, however, some interesting information comes to light in terms of Boca Sierra Estates.

First of all, the 175,000 square feet of “commercial use” is a development cap, and is not limited to commercial uses, but includes regional, local and office uses as well. In all actuality, Eddins said the project could end up with “quite a bit less” than 175,000 square feet developed.

“They are not permitted to build 175,000 square feet of shopping center,” Eddins said. “It is a certain amount of development potential for the area.”

Another point centers around the completion of an area specific plan, not unlike the draft Downtown Specific Plan. Eddins said before construction can begin, a site specific plan needs to be completed, including an environmental analysis and several public hearings. In addition, any proposed building is subject to a full round of planning commission and town council scrutiny, and would include a complete environmental impact report. Eddins said the entire process would take one year at the minimum.

“Look at how long we’ve been working on the Downtown Specific Plan,” she said.

Finally, the issue of the third access road to Tahoe Donner needs some clarification. Eddins said the road and PC-2 are not linked; the road can be built regardless if PC-2 flies or dies. Currently, PC-2’s development plan includes rights-of-way for the road’s construction, but Eddins said the town would simply purchase the easements should Boca Sierra never happen.

Eddins also said the project is in no way approved. The developers have not submitted their plan to the town for review. Until planners see a site plan, she said, the development cannot move forward.

In the meantime, petition signers will be circulating their initiative around town. But my question in all this is simple: are the staff time and other resources involved with amending the town’s general plan really necessary? Before any construction can take place at least a year’s worth of public hearings in front of the planning commission and town council are required – plenty of time for the public to voice opinions. Whether you support or oppose the development you will have ample opportunity to stand and be heard – be it for Boca Sierra Estates or any other proposed project that appears on the horizon.


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