Carson City downtown’s new streetscape still on track
Downtown Carson City’s streetscape facelift and two related matters won support Thursday in a long session of the Board of Supervisors.
The two other items tackled were a crucial step toward forming a downtown improvement district, which sparked some opposition, and the non-controversial naming of a project-related community plaza.
The streetscape facelift cleared the next to last hurdle when the board voted 3-2 to support recommendations for the 90 percent design sent to members by the Regional Transportation Commission and the Redevelopment Authority Citizens Committee. The close vote was no surprise as Mayor Robert Crowell, joined by Supervisors Karen Abowd and Brad Bonkowski, forged a majority again. Supervisors Lori Bagwell and Jim Shirk dissented.
A final vote on the full design and awarding the contract to do the project next year is executed in late January or early February.
“At the end of the day,” Crowell said just before the vote tally, “we all want a vibrant community.” As he said that, he urged both the board and community to come together for the city’s future despite the current board division.
Shirk continued decrying the method of financing for the project, a long-held position, and Bagwell said she doesn’t like cutting lanes on Carson Street downtown.
“I’m going to continue to vote no because I didn’t want single lanes,” she said. The project envisions dropping from two lanes each way to one north and one south, with a center turn lane. It also would widen sidewalks, jettison the median but add more trees along the street’s sides, provide bicycle lanes, put pavers at crosswalks and add other amenities from 5th Street to William Street. Some parking along the street also will go in.
The board in 2014 boosted city sales tax one-eighth of a penny to back bonded indebtedness for downtown revitalization, other business corridor improvements and some capital projects.
The Carson Street portion of the project is expected to cost $8.9 million. Formation of a downtown improvement district moved a step closer to reality when the board voted 4-1 on two issues, the first to accept a property owners’ petition and the second to introduce an ordinance on it. Shirk was the lone dissenting voter, with Bagwell saying it helps to have business and property owner buy-in and business participation.
“I’m sticking to my guns,” said Shirk, arguing only businesses with frontage on the street and with benefits like snow removal and trash pickup paid for by businesses should be assessed. That picked up on the argument of a vocal opponent to the boundaries of the district, her property and business location and a 75 percent assessment requirement despite being off Carson Street.
Loreen Hautekeet of Treasure Mountain Apparel at 1008 N. Curry St. said she’s 11 blocks from the core of the district, where most she contends non-service benefits from heightened foot traffic will apply. She said she and her husband, Mike, who also own 1007 N. Curry where Mike’s Pharmacy was until it closed recently, are located about six blocks from eventual project improvements on North Curry Street planned in the second stage.
“Right now I’m not getting any benefit,” Hautekeet said. “If you give me the benefit, I’m more than happy to pay.” She also said she thought the map was poorly drafted by major property owners and a couple of people. She named them as John Rutledge, an attorney who offices on Carson Street, and Linda Ritter, former city manager who helped in the petition process. Neither was on hand Thursday.
Community Development Director Lee Plemel said Rutledge was undergoing surgery.
Naming the plaza going in on a closed West 3rd Street block from Carson Street to Curry Street for the late Bob McFadden won 5-0 board approval. Lisa McFadden, his sister, testified before the anticipated unanimous approval for family members who donated $125,000 to help the private-public plaza plan become a reality. Including that donation, it should cost about $715,000 with much of the money from redevelopment funds.
“We miss him every day,” said Lisa McFadden of her late brother, who was in real estate and restored both historic commercial and residential homes in Carson City. Included was what was once the St. Charles Hotel, now Firkin & Fox, on the southwest corner of Carson and 3rd near what will become the entry to the plaza named for him. In it will go various features, including a water treatment and a stage for performing arts.
Among the few final changes at the 90 percent design phase in the project is a wider stage, as the arts community recommended, going from 25 feet to 36 feet in width.