Stop light puts the red light on development |

Stop light puts the red light on development

Amanda Hammon

Plans for a south Carson City development were put on hold Wednesday as transportation officials wavered on a decision to fund a stop light at Sonoma and Carson streets.

Members of Carson’s Regional Transportation Commission weren’t convinced that a project by Conkey Development, of Sacramento, deserved part of the commission’s scant dollars.

Company President Jim Conkey estimates his retail project around $10 million with a $400,000 sales tax windfall to the city. In order to develop on his site, which lies between Carson and Curry streets, a traffic light is needed at Sonoma Street. Sonoma Street is on the city’s transportation master plan as a medium priority project to be completed sometime before 2005.

Conkey asked that the signal and the street construction from Carson to Curry streets be moved to a higher priority level in the city’s master plan.

He asked the city to pay for the stop light, which, after development at the site, meets Nevada Department of Transportation requirements for a signal. In return, Conkey would construct in phases almost all of Sonoma Street. About 87 percent of the land needed for the road could be built on company property, Conkey said. The other 13 percent would have to come from neighboring developer, Gene Allensworth, who Conkey said doesn’t want to enter into a development agreement for the road.

The situation between the two developers puts Conkey and the city in an interesting position. Usually, a road and its costs would be split evenly between two developments. Because Allensworth is apparently unwilling to cooperate, the brunt of development lies on Conkey and the city. Also, the rules would be different for the developer if Sonoma Street wasn’t on the city’s master plan.

The development agreements are complicated but include the city buying some property, Conkey buying some of that property and several small land trades.

Standing in the way of an immediate extension are properties not owned by Conkey.

“We’re trying to take a losing situation and turn it into a win-win,” Conkey said. “I think we’re being generous, but what I keep hearing is you want the whole package. I can’t give you the whole package. Getting three-fourths of something is a heck of a big step.”

Commissioners were hesitant to commit funds to a project that isn’t a high priority and one where the costs aren’t nailed down. The lack of part of the right of way for the entire road caused concern as well.

“If you think it isn’t frustrating to put a stop light that would enable people to make a left hand turn and not get to Curry Street, you’re nuts,” commissioner Kay Bennett said. “Do you want to infuriate the community and make us look bad? I don’t see why we should adjust our priorities for this when we have other areas and intersections that need (the funding). What intersection aren’t you going to build?”

Estimates for the entire Sonoma Street project show the roughly $924,000 project split between Conkey at $353,000 and the city at $546,000. Conkey asked for $195,000 for the stop light immediately because without it, the development can’t proceed, Conkey said.

“I have tenants who are waiting a decision from tonight,” Conkey Development Director Steve Trolio said. “We’ve been stringing our tenants along and will lose the project if we don’t do something.”

Trolio said the development couldn’t go forward without at least a stop light, or the busy intersection could cause deaths.

In lieu of a decision, the commission did set aside $200,000 from the commission’s reserve fund, promising to make a yes or no decision regarding a stop light during March’s meeting.

Commissioner Marv Teixeira asked that city staff try again to talk with Allensworth to gain the rest of the right of way. Commissioners said they would prefer to see all of Sonoma Street built rather than a portion benefiting one developer.

“I came here thinking this was a slam dunk,” Conkey said. “I thought this was a pretty good package. Time is really of the essence.”

The $200,000 was an attempt by commissioners to help Conkey allay the restlessness of his prospective tenants.