A downtown Carson Street makeover keyed to complete streets to include foot traffic cleared a crucial hurdle Thursday with another downtown shoe about to drop in two weeks.
Carson City’s Board of Supervisors, as anticipated, voted 4-1 to give the green light to having city staff move from the conceptual design stage to detailed design work in coming months. The plan calls for three lanes of vehicular traffic, bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks with no median, some pull-in street parking and more trees. A proposal to close 3rd Street west from Carson to Curry streets will go before the board Nov. 20.
In addition, on Thursday the board voted 4-1 to approve on first reading — the preliminary yet definitive stage — authorization to issue $13.6 million in general obligation infrastructure sales tax bonds to pay for the downtown Carson Street work and other capital improvements. Supervisor Brad Bonkowski reminded everyone downtown is just an initial phase.
“This isn’t about downtown,” he said, mentioning work to follow on all Carson City business corridors. “This is just the first step. I just think that we need to do it right every step of the way.”
Despite that analysis, most who testified had stuck to the conceptual design and related staff direction before the board. Many supported it, but there were those opposed as well.
Daryl Reedy, who has the Arby’s sandwich shop at 1122 S. Carson St. just south of the downtown project’s footprint, was among the opponents on hand. He said he and Bob Lamkin of Bob’s Shell at 705 N. Carson St., along with others opposed, had gathered 4,000 signatures against the plan back when a few downtown businesses gathered far fewer signatures in favor of it. Lamkin was on hand but didn’t testify.
“The obvious impact for us is going to be reduced traffic,” Reedy said.
With those questioning the project’s wisdom was Supervisor Jim Shirk, who cast the dissenting vote both on the bonds and approving the conceptual design. He said he wasn’t against the project but the way it was being financed.
Shirk, who has objected almost every step of the way, was referring to increasing city sales tax one-eighth of a penny to underpin bond for capital projects. He said he wanted instead to use redevelopment funds for downtown. He earlier advanced a financing mechanism that included redevelopment money combined with other revenues sources.
City Manager Nick Marano divulged Thursday he has his eye on the redevelopment money for the closure of 3rd Street instead, which is a plan to make it a city space for residents, tourists, entertainment and related uses. He said he will put that plan before the board in two weeks, but shared parts of the concept.
The Third Street plan involves $270,000 from redevelopment funding for each of two years plus a private donation of $125,000, but he said he couldn’t share the name of the donor or donors involved. The Redevelopment Citizens Committee already has endorsed the idea of closing 3rd Street for a focal downtown open space north of Firkin & Fox restaurant and south of Mom & Pop’s Diner.
Doug Cramer of Mom & Pop’s at 224 S. Carson St. showed up for public comment earlier in the meeting to talk about those street closure plans and, after Marano informed him they would be aired in two weeks, said he would return. Before he left, however, he said such plans may play havoc with his small business and need to include daytime activities on a closed 3rd Street mall, as well as some at night. He opens just during the day.
Witnesses in favor of Carson Street’s conceptual design, meanwhile, included Victor Honein, who has the ARCO on the southeast corner of North Carson and East William streets. He appeared right after Arby’s operator Reedy and said even though his own business could be impacted negatively, something must be done downtown.
“Doing nothing will not help,” he said, adding most such downtown revitalization projects have helped other communities.
Also favoring the project was Sam Flakus, a machinist and self-identified twenty-something, who said his age group is looking for wider sidewalks, bike lanes and a place to hang out.
“This is what we need,” he said, gesturing toward a slide depiction of the project on a nearby screen.
Appearing to talk about formation of a commercial vitalization area (CAV), which informally is known as a business improvement district or BID, were John Rutledge of the Rutledge Law Center, 120 N. Carson St., and Linda Ritter, formerly the city manager in Carson City.
They appeared to detail results of Ritter’s work to determine if downtown property owners are interested in forming a CAV to handle maintenance and promote the business district.
Rutledge said owners representing 86 percent of the district’s private property responded. He said owners representing 91 percent of that group expressed interest in exploring the CAV idea. In the early stages, the amount needed from those property owners was pegged, in the aggregate, at $50,000 annually to maintain and promote such a district. Some supervisors insist on such a district before finally proceeding with the project.
Thursday’s testimony and vote came after a staff presentation on downtown ideas in recent years dating to the Envision 2005 period when narrowing Carson Street, aimed at dealing with the coming I-580 freeway bypass, was decided upon after lengthy dialogue that included citizen input. Staff said on this latest design, there also were opportunities for input.
Downtown changes, which nearly a decade ago called for two traffic lanes and more parallel parking, at that time were pegged at $12 million. A recession, however, held them up until now and this scaled down version.
The current plan envisions spending not only the $6.8 million for streetscape, but also $2.1 million for underground utility work the Public Works Departments says must be done as soon as feasible.
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