64 Acres transit project passed
After listening to a packed house of public comment – swimming with severely oppositional opinions – the Placer County Planning Commission gave its thumbs-up to the Intermodal Transit Facility planned for the public land known as 64 Acres.
“While these concerns certainly have merit – the staff supports the project,” Bill Combs addressed the commission, referencing public comment which cited recreational, environmental and aesthetic reservations as reasons not to build a transit hub on the undeveloped, U.S. Forest Service-owned 64 Acres.
The proposed project sets a mass transit center, along with a 130-space parking lot, just south of the Tahoe City “Y”. The center, dubbed the Intermodal Transit Facility, will accommodate public buses, as well as shuttles from ski areas and the Reno airport. In theory, the facility would promote public transportation and reduce the number of private vehicles clogging area roads.
“I think this project is dead wrong,” said Ken Prouty, a Tahoe City resident. “It’s disappointing to see this progressing, this railroad job that we can’t stop.”
Members of the public – filling the seats and lining the back wall of one of the North Tahoe Community Conference Center’s meeting rooms – expressed concern that the project would do little to ease the area’s traffic burden, and the parking lot would be primarily used by Tahoe City workers and rafting patrons.
“I’m just a housewife, but it smells like a boondoggle,” said Mary Hicks. “It doesn’t seem like it’s being done for the good of the people in the Tahoe Basin. Forest Service land belongs to America, not a few people with vested business interests in Placer County.”
Supporters of the project were also in attendance, pushing for the facility in order to move closer to offering North Tahoe’s growing local and tourist populations adequate public transportation options.
“Things are gonna change,” said John Ballard, a 21-year West Shore resident, explaining to his peers in the pubic that growth was inevitable and must be dealt with. “Whether we stand in front of the train or let it go by, things are gonna happen.”
Representatives from various pro-transit center organizations –
including the Truckee-North Tahoe Transportation Management Association and the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association – also attended the meeting to voice their support. Repeatedly using the phrase “a piece of the puzzle”, these supporters tried to convey that the transit center was simply a step toward accommodating growth, not a blanket solution.
“If we’re in the market for a horse and a cart and someone offers us a cart, lets take it and park it somewhere while we wait on the horse,” said Emily DeHuff, secretary of the North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council, which heard the issue prior to the planning commission, explaining that, while public bus service is currently lacking, the transit center would be needed.
David Hanson, associate manager for the Tahoe Taverns Property Owners Association, suggested that the commission extend the public comment period until its next meeting to allow for additional input, contending that many residents could not attend the Thursday meeting because of its inconvenient 2 p.m. time slot. Hanson also said that Tahoe Taverns would appeal the commission’s decision if the transit center project was approved.
“The public has done a good job expressing their concerns,” said Ken Denio, a member of the planning commission. “If we have five more meetings, it’s gonna be those same concerns that come up.”
In the end, the commission certified the project’s Environmental Impact Report and approved the conditional use permit requested by the county’s Department of Public Works.
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