Principles to Do Business By
Can a real estate development company be a valued and respected member of a community?
It’s something we ask ourselves every day at East West Partners, and it’s certainly a question on the minds of people in Truckee as our company moves forward with several projects in the community.
We know developers are not universally loved, but we work hard to do business by a set of principles that we think produce good results. You may be wondering, what is our company doing here and what can town residents expect of us? I’m the partner in charge of East West’s operations based in Truckee, so here are a few thoughts from the horse’s mouth:
Everyone who works locally at East West Partners lives here in the Truckee-North Lake Tahoe area. We own homes, we participate in civic organizations, our kids go to local schools – Decisions are made by us locally.
Our company makes long-term investments in communities, and we maintain a presence long after the actual development work is complete.
Both of these principles – local decision-making and long-term investment – form the bedrock of how we do business. Companies that come into town, build a project, then leave, often pay little attention to local issues.
Listening to the community
We pay close attention to what the community says it wants. Normally the community’s desires are in the form of a community plan, which is a roadmap to the values and preferences of local citizens.
As for Truckee, we were impressed the town incorporated itself in the first place to gain control over land use decisions. Our projects are in areas designated for development by the Truckee General Plan, and we carefully studied the plan and vision statement is designing these neighborhoods.
Follow the plan
Our first project, Old Greenwood, is a destination resort with recreational uses, clustered residences and lodging, as called for in the town plan. The second community, Gray’s Crossing, currently in the planning stages, will be a planned community, also designated by the town plan.
But listening to the community doesn’t just mean following land use plans. For example, folks told us ‘don’t build gated communities where locals aren’t welcome.’ We listened. Old Greenwood is not gated, although the recent picture in the Sierra Sun showed construction gates temporarily at the site for safety reasons. There’s public play at the Old Greenwood golf course. Like Northstar, it will be a resort course open for public play. We also will offer discounts to local Truckee residents.
Golf for community good
We want the golf courses at both Old Greenwood and Gray’s Crossing to contribute more than golf to the community. At our Coyote Moon public course, the Chip in Fore Charity tournament just raised more than $100,000 for local charities, and we hope to raise more than $65,000 in October for the Tahoe Forest Hospital Foundation.
People are worried about water and chemical use on golf courses. We’re concerned about that and more. Everything we do at Tahoe will follow environmental protection and sustainability principles more stringent than local, state or federal laws.
Whether it’s ensuring no old growth timber is used in home construction, minimizing water use, organic management of golf course turf, recycling, or energy conservation, we are holding ourselves to standards that to our knowledge have never been achieved by any developments at Tahoe.
Trails, open space
As part of Old Greenwood, we are giving to the public 260 acres of permanent public open space that will never be developed, constructing more than 3 miles of public trails, and providing endowments to local foundations to provide long-term stewardship of the land and maintenance of the trails.
Our main office is located in a storefront building in downtown Truckee. People stroll into our offices every day to talk about what we’re up to. We value that because it helps us know what local residents want. We were thrilled that the town council approved Old Greenwood with a unanimous vote, because it indicated to us that we had done a good job listening to local concerns.
In following these principles, we have built up a strong track record in the communities where we do business, and we’ve been recognized for excellence. For example, we are the only company in the nation to have received two major awards from the prestigious Urban Land Institute.
East West Partners is in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe because it’s a very special environment, and we intend to do our part to keep it that way. We conduct ourselves according to a set of principles that we hope will help us do in Truckee what we have done elsewhere – to become a valued and respected member of the community.
Roger Lessman is managing partner in Truckee with East West Partners.
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