Board of Supervisors OKs removal of sidewalk fences downtown
April 19, 2013
The wrought-iron sidewalk fences on Carson Street's downtown will be removed.
The Board of Supervisors made that decision Thursday night during a meeting in which three supervisors' attempts to craft more-sweeping motions regarding traffic matters downtown went nowhere. The motion just to tear down the fencing was adopted after supervisors John McKenna and Karen Abowd voiced support and Abowd made the motion.
By consensus and with direction from Mayor Robert Crowell, though without any motion, the board told City Manager Larry Werner to have staffers work with the new Downtown 20/20 Action Advocacy Group of businesses on related issues and return within 60 to 90 days with ideas about other steps.
Linda Ritter, former city manager and current interim director at the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau, said she had volunteered to work with Downtown 20/20 on such ideas.
Supervisor Brad Bonkowski said he envisioned such a move downtown could be a template for businesses in other parts of the community to move forward on other projects.
The action came after 10 p.m. in a rare night session, at which proponents and opponents of cutting Carson Street traffic to two lanes downtown sparred.
Doreen Mack of Lofty Expressions, who formed Downtown 20/20, acknowledged early under questioning from Crowell that no one can guarantee a positive or negative impact from narrowing four lanes of traffic to two on 12 blocks from Fifth Street to Ann Street. But she and her cadre favored it strongly.
"It's worth a gamble," she said, noting that's the view of her "dynamic" organization of 49 firms and dozen property owners downtown favoring the more extensive changes. "This plan," she said, "is about establishing a friendly downtown community that is vital."
Daryl Reedy of Arby's at 1122 S. Carson St., however, seemed certain many businesses would be negatively affected by narrowing the traffic flow — including his own.
He said he and Bob Lamkin of Bob's Shell Service, which is in the affected 12 blocks at 705 N. Carson St., had found 90 Carson City business opponents and secured 3,000 petition signatures, mostly from city residents, who opposed the traffic-change plan.
Reedy also predicted the idea, if carried forward with two rather than four lanes, would "annihilate" any chance of luring a business into the vacated Gottschalks building just south of downtown.
A city staff presentation opened the evening and detailed that the cost would be $35,000 to re-stripe the street for two lanes, add parallel parking spaces and remove the sidewalk wrought-iron fencing that eventually became the sole aspect of the plan adopted.
When public comment followed, Mack in favor and Reedy opposed were followed by a host of others on both sides in the jammed Sierra Room at the Community Center.
Jim Phalan of Firkin & Fox and High Sierra Brewing Co., a Downtown 20/20 member, said the group also plans a multi-year campaign to follow up after changes to promote events downtown, remove medians, bring diagonal instead of parallel parking, and make other changes to promote a pedestrian-friendly environment.
"You're never going to know unless you try it," Phalan said.
But Linda Barnett of Hampton Inn & Suites at the north end of Carson Street spoke against the idea. She said it usually takes her 10 or 12 minutes to drive from her hotel to Red's Old 395 Grill, but because construction on Carson Street Wednesday blocked off a lane it took her 22 minutes.
She also made a cart-before-the-horse argument against traffic changes before enhancing downtown attractions.
"People come," she said, "when there are shops to come to."
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