Planners working on the Diamond Springs and El Dorado Area Mobility and Livable Community Plan must have thought they walked into a buzzsaw at Thursday’s El Dorado County Planning Commission meeting.
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As they sat in stunned silence, Dan Bolster, the senior transportation planner with the El Dorado County Transportation Commission and Adrian Engel of Echelon Transportation Group, listened as one person after another got up to lambast the plan that had just been presented to the Planning Commission.
Designed to address transportation circulation and other transportation improvements in the El Dorado-Diamond Springs area, the plan was commissioned by EDCTC.
Echelon was the consulting firm hired to prepare the plan.
First to respond to the plan was Planning Commissioner Dave Pratt who commented that he had participated in the process as a member of one of the stakeholder groups. However, he suggested their input was less relevant and more should have been solicited from the local business community. Pratt went on to question some aspects of the plan, including taking out the turn lane in the middle of Missouri Flat Road or eliminating some on-street parking in the study area in order to widen or put in sidewalks and add bike lanes.
Bolster responded to Pratt’s comments by saying the lack of an organized business community in the area had been a challenge, adding that in order to get their input they had gone door to door, had coffee with business owners and sent out mailers. They tried to do the best they could, he said, because they knew many business owners could not be at the workshops because they had to tend to their businesses.
However, that comment set off a strong reaction from many of the business owners in the audience.
One of them was Ellen Day, a business owner with Pride Realty in Diamond Springs, who called the plan “poorly planned, poorly executed and not in the realm of reality.” Complaining that the parking spots they wanted to eliminate belonged to the property owners and not Caltrans, she added that Pride’s sidewalk arcs into Highway 49 because at one time it was a Pony Express stop. “That’s why historical value is important in Diamond Springs,” she said, adding that she doubted the planners went door to door contacting the business community.
George Turnboo, who owns a gas station at the intersection where a controversial roundabout is proposed, was livid at the claim that the area has no merchant’s association, saying they had just donated $1,500 raised during a bazaar for railroad restoration. Adamantly opposed to the roundabout, Turnboo said it would cost parking spaces and make it difficult for people with trucks or trailers to get through the intersection. “My cousin wondered how he’d be able to deliver cattle or bring hay to his property if the roundabout was installed,” he said. Drainage was also on Turnboo’s list of items not addressed by the plan.
Joining in Turnboo’s criticism was Rod Pimental, who said the county had done very little for the area. “Everything that we have done in El Dorado, we have done ourselves,” he claimed. Pimental went on to ask for better notification of meetings so more people could participate in them. “We aren’t notified in advance,” he said, adding that “these advisory committees are formed for one reason — to get what the people on the advisory committee want to get done. It’s not community involvement.”
Laurel Stroud, another local resident who spoke at the meeting, said she had “never seen a project run like this.” A participant in the preparation of the draft plan, she said the outcome was directed to a “predetermined result.” It was a complete waste of time and money, she claimed, with many comments and suggestions never recorded. Like the others before her, Stroud specifically objected to the roundabout and elimination of parking. Stroud also took the transportation planners to task for how the plan would change the area. “We asked on this project, we don’t want to look like El Dorado Hills, we don’t want to look like Folsom. We want to look like the semi-rural we have left. But we keep getting pictures of these cutsie little, cookie-cutter towns. That’s not what we were asking for. We were asking to maintain what we have. Again bike communities and walkable communities work for high-density areas. They don’t work here.”
Art Marinaccio, who lives in Shingle Springs, joined Stroud in calling the plan a big waste of money, although he thought the results of the process could help people understand the benefit of the update to the General Plan and of the economic advisory committee. He went on to urge more long-range planning be done in the county but that it be done by county staff rather than specific agencies like the Transportation Commission or hired consultants.
Closing out the discussion, Planning Commission Chairman Walter Mathews noted that many people felt left out of the process. Their comments need to be recorded and then “let the fruit fall where it may,” he said, noting that everyone’s opinions should be included.
Bolster said a draft of the plan will be released Feb. 18 and residents will have about five days to read and comment on it. The planners will then take the comments, make revisions and provide the final plan to EDCTC on March 6. That meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors Chambers.
People can view the plan and make comments at EDCTC’s Website at edctc.org/Projects.html.
In other actions, the commission approved a request for a time extension of four years for the Marble Valley Tentative Subdivision Map. The new expiration date is Feb. 10, 2018.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.