Take time with general plan
(Editor’s Note: The following is a letter submitted to the Truckee Town Council.)
The town is going to review our general plan and is undecided as to whether to conduct a simple update or to do a new general plan. I advocate the latter course for the following reasons:
1. We have a rapidly growing population with a fairly high turnover rate. This means that a large proportion of our current population was not involved in the earlier process, in 1994 and 1995.
2. The new town had to expend a great amount of effort to just complete a basic general plan in 1995 and to do a basic environmental impact report on it. It is time to add substantially to this basic plan, so that it considers several additional issues that are vitally important. Much has happened in the last 10 years, including the bypass road and the Martis Valley plan in Placer County. We have also grown about 50 percent faster than the old plan had projected and so it is outdated, demographically and economically.
3. For example, we will reach buildout of our current incorporated area in about 15 years. This means we have the ability to do a buildout general plan. This is a very different type of document than a typical 20-year plan, such as we currently have. When you consider your town’s buildout, you must think about all the important issues, such as affordable housing, employment mix, transit, and habitat protection very carefully, because you will no longer have the engine of new development to bring in fees and to respond to market demands.
4. When we reach buildout, we will see real estate prices rise faster than they have in the past. This will worsen our already very severe affordable housing problem. Looking to our final town in a buildout planning process will permit us to focus on this economic transition, from growth to steady state. We will want to devote more attention to inclusionary housing ordinances, where you require developers to include some percentage of affordable housing units. Moreover, we will want to focus very intently on the specific issue of continuing affordability. If we don’t permanently deed restrict the affordable rental and for-sale units in all projects over the next 15 years, Truckee will have no affordable housing a few years after growth stops, as all the units get bid up. This has happened elsewhere, in resort towns and in landlocked cities.
5. Likewise, when new development stops, redevelopment will increase dramatically. This has effects on affordable housing, as small dwelling units get replaced by larger ones. It also raises the issues of small town character, neighborhood design standards for building bulk, and others. Economics consultants have evaluated slow-growth and no-growth scenarios for the Portland, Ore., region. We need such studies.
6. It is unclear that we have to stop growing in 15 years, when we build out our current town area. We could annex more land and grow to 100,000 or more. Furthermore, the county could become pro-development and permit large projects in the east county that are harmful to Truckee. There are no permanent controls on most of the private lands on the east side. Also, there are no permanent controls on the USFS lands, either. The Forest Service could trade these lands for more valuable habitat lands in the Taho
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