Some Carson City residents loved the latest downtown Carson Street conceptual design. Some didn’t.
Many provided opinions when questioned after seeing the design Tuesday at the Carson City Community Center, and a few offered ideas to tweak the plans.
At noon and after workday Tuesday open house sessions in the Sierra Room, overflow crowds were treated to presentations on the design plans, were able to question officials about them in the center’s lobby and offered their written input for Board of Supervisors’ consideration at a November meeting. That is when the design is slated for board debate and possible action.
“This is far beyond what I expected to see,” said Tim Kozier, retired and a five-year city resident. “It’s wonderful.”
He said the presentations by city staff and a consultant reminded him of downtowns in Sioux Falls, S.D. and San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Ande Engleman, Barbara Morgan and Dottie Kelley, three long time city residents, raised the spectre of problems in emergencies when fire trucks, ambulances or sheriff’s cruisers need to navigate a three-lane Carson Street through the downtown business corridor. However, city staff said both fire/paramedic and sheriff’s personnel approve of the design. They were among the city staff on hand to answer questions in the center’s lobby.
Engleman, active on community advisory panels such as the Utility Finance Oversight Committee, raised additional questions. She expressed concern about traffic counts on Division Street, two streets to the west of the main corridor, worried about bike lanes when the few parking spaces are used, and voiced concern about a regional impact-to-come.
She said, for example, accidents await the opening of vehicle doors or drivers pulling cars and trucks out of the few parking spaces and so bicyclists face danger. “I see it as a potential disaster,” she said.
But Muscle Powered, a local group of walkers and bike riders, supports the downtown corridor design. Anne Macquarie, the organization’s secretary, issued a statement saying it will make the business core “safer and more welcoming to bicyclists and pedestrians.”
Engleman, meanwhile, said no one yet has had time to assess the impact of Tesla Motors locating a 6,500 employees batter plant in nearby Storey County. She said moving forward on the design and project should await that assessment.
Despite her call for delay, others were eager to move sooner, not later. “I want them to start tomorrow,” said Paul Esswein, a seven year resident who is a professional planner and member of the city’s Planning Commission.
Jon “Tork” Rains, a graphic designer and Carson City resident since 2000, also spoke favorably about what he saw. “I really liked it,” he said. “It was very informative.” He particularly liked a part of the presentation showing prospects for street art and activity.
Elinor Bugli, violinist with the Carson City Symphony and a resident more than three decades, called the design “a good compromise.” She also wanted cultural aspects downtown to include performing arts like music.
Gil Yanuck, retired and the former head of the Chamber of Commerce board, also called the proposal a good compromise with the three lanes but voiced concern businesses need to spruce up as well.
Jon Rogers, businessman, called the design wonderful and expressed relief about the few pull-in parking places rather than other possibilities. However, he would like the design footprint extended south to 10th Street to include Red’s Old 395 Grill and the Ormsby House hotel. Tommy Hughes, Rogers’ retired friend, wanted the footprint to be smaller and run from Musser Street to Robinson Street.
David Landis came with questions, particularly about what could happen on Curry Street a block west of Carson Street, but he wasn’t turned off by the presentation.
“I came kind of quite concerned,” he said, “but I’m beginning to see the logic of it.”
Community Development Director Lee Plemel, Transportation Manager Patrick Pittenger and Jeff Winston, principal of Colorado-based MIG, Inc., handled the presentation. Pittenger said Carson Street traffic counts have dropped from nearly 40,000 per day at the peak many years ago to fewer than 17,000 now and the project makes sense. He said the I-580 bypass, Roop Street and Stewart Street are taking vehicles off Carson Street.
Plemel said the project, among those funded by a one-eighth of a penny city sales tax hike, costs $6.8 million and is set for 2016. Another $2.1 million in utility work under the street also will be done, but would have to be completed anyway.
Winston gave an overview of his firm’s work on the previous design in 2005, one that called for two lanes, more parallel parking and no bike lanes. He said the 2014 three-lane concept, with bike lanes and pocket parking, provides wide sidewalks and options for street amenities.
Winston showed illustrations of how the changes could include street art based on historic themes, sidewalk trees, portable planters and removable wooden “parklets” to allow outside activity such as enjoying food and libations.