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Truckee enacts ban on new real estate offices

Allen Best

TRUCKEE, Calif. – The proliferation of real estate and other offices continues to be a concern in mountain towns of the West. Truckee, on the crest of the Sierra Nevada, is the latest to take action with an emergency ordinance which bans any new businesses except retail, restaurants and bars from ground-floor units in a district called Commercial Row.Elsewhere in the resort West, similar regulations earlier this year were enacted – and then suspended – by Crested Butte. Telluride this week was scheduled to discuss such zoning. And Nevada City, Calif., a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, recently adopted similar regulations for its historic downtown area. In Nevada City, however, the new law allows offices to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.The move in Truckee, reports the Sierra Sun, was instigated by the Downtown Merchants Association. “Offices on the ground floor can erode the commercial viability of downtown; that’s why malls never have offices; just businesses,” explained Stefanie Olivieri, the association’s president.Real estate agents contested that premise. “Real estate offices generate foot traffic,” said John Falk, representing the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors. “People do browse the listings in the real estate windows.” He called the zoning “backdoor rent control,” because offices were driving up rent in the district.Among other resort towns, Vail adopted similar zoning in 1973, and Aspen did so in 2004. In both cases, existing uses were allowed to continue, a practice called grandfathering.One of the arguments against such zoning districts is that it restricts the free market. Over time, say opponents, the market will balance out uses. Evidence from Park City suggests that argument is correct.Park City considered such regulations in 2002 and again earlier this year. This year’s study found that space in the city’s main business district, which in 2002 had been 9 percent, had declined to 7 percent. Other general office uses remained static at 2 percent.Ironically, Park City’s business district had a large vacancy rate in 2002, the year it hosted the Winter Olympics. Those vacancies have largely been replaced by retail businesses.Is the Park City experience relevant to other towns? Frank Bell served there as police chief, then director of Olympics planning before a stint as town manager of Crested Butte and now Telluride. Places with end-of-the-road economies, including Telluride and Crested Butte, he believes, are fundamentally different from Park City, which is located only 35 miles from Salt Lake City and includes a large commuter population.

GRANBY, Colo. – Elks clubs, Veterans of Foreign War posts, and other such organizations have floundered as what newsman Tom Brokaw called the “Greatest Generation” has passed on. Baby boomers never joined such organizations in large numbers. Too, there were fewer war veterans in younger generations.That, too, is the story in Granby, where the American Legion is likely to close. The chapter has only 20 members, too few to pay the roofing and other costs of upkeep for their building that come on top of the $2,500 annual utility bills. The organization had considered sharing the space with other organizations, such as the Boy Scouts, but has been unable to find partners.

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Union carpenters have been picketing a construction site in the Village at Northstar, a ski area between Truckee and Lake Tahoe.The carpenters are not striking nor attempting to interrupt work, reports the Sierra Sun, but are claiming the pay and benefits given them by a project contractor called Midwest Drywall are insufficient. The developer of the project is East West Partners. Joe Malone, project manager for East West, said the Northstar project is an “open shop” job, with both union and non-union workers.



WINTER PARK-FRASER, Colo. – The towns of Fraser and Winter Park, which are located cheek to jowl, continue to explore how they might become more like one. So far, the courtship amounts to little more than a peck on the cheek.This year the two began sharing basic court functions. Two judges can remain, but the idea is to have two court operations that are not significantly different. Another intergovernmental agreement is being prepared that will combine building departments.Three scenarios are being explored: additional sharing, Fraser joining Winter Park, or complete unification of the two towns. In addition, there’s the do-nothing option.Fraser is the older of the twin towns. It was created in 1904, when railroad tracks from Denver arrived, although not formally incorporated until 1953. Winter Park was first a railroad camp called West Portal, and in time Hideaway Park, after the ski area was created in 1938. It was incorporated in 1978.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado CO


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