SVCAC passes roundabout to county
In a split decision, the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission voted to ask the county to move forward with an environmental report for a proposed roundabout on Arnold Drive and Agua Caliente Road.
The vote was 5-4, but it wasn't that close as two members of the commission who abstained, indicated that they too were in favor of the project.
The proposed $1.5 million roundabout would replace a four-way stop intersection.
Tom Angstadt, a trustee at Hanna Boys Center, said the center wanted to align its current driveway with Agua Caliente Road.
"We believe it's a win-win," he said. "It slows traffic and cuts down on pollution." And he pointed out that it will also accommodate bicycles and pedestrians.
But a number of the 15 or so audience members didn't see it as a win-win and spoke out in opposition to the project citing possible safety issues, concerns about truck traffic and the spoiling of a rural road with what was termed an "urban solution."
Kim Greenwood, who lives on Agua Caliente just east of the proposed roundabout, wanted to know what benefit it would be to the neighborhood. "Is this the right solution?" he asked. "I want to see the objectives and other options."
Angstadt told Greenwood that the long term objective is to manage traffic and keep traffic moving. "There's no perfect solution," Angstadt said, "just a best solution."
Karla Noyes wanted to know what problem the roundabout is trying to solve. "This is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist," she added.
And Victor Hipkiss, who also lives on Agua Caliente east of the roundabout, wondered if it was needed. He said there's no morning rush and the only time traffic backs up is at 2:30 p.m.
Ron Brocco, who owns Brocco's Old Barn on Arnold Drive, said he's concerned with the truck traffic and trucks being able to make turns.
That was echoed by Commissioner Clarence Jenkins, a vineyard owner, who wanted to know what happens to truck traffic going through the roundabout. He pointed out that because of an increase of accidents at Highway 12 and Madrone, his trucks come down to Agua Caliente where there's a stoplight at Highway 12. "This is a major traffic change," he said.
Jenkins, who opposed the project, scolded the county staff for not having enough information. "We don't have enough information," he said. "We know so little about them (roundabouts). I don't see traffic studies ... I don't see anything."
Fellow Commissioner Kirsten Lindquist said she was concerned with the safety aspect, especially for elderly drivers.
But the proposal had its supporters too. Nonagenarian Jim Parks, a Springs native, applauded the idea. "I think it's an excellent idea that cars don't have to sit and idle," he said. "I think roundabouts work really well. Could you put one down at Bonneau's?"
Sonoma Mayor Laurie Gallian said she too is concerned with safety and whether or not fire trucks would be able to make the turn. But she praised the concept's purported ability to slow down traffic.
And Lori Horhorst called it, "wonderful ... Congratulations to the various parties who brought this about." Hohorst said she's experienced roundabouts in other settings and is a huge supporter of them.
Rex Cummins, senior engineer with the county's Transportation and Public Works Department, said the dimensions of the roundabout are industry standards.
Commissioner Mark Bramfitt wondered what sort of "horrific incident" it would take to change the present four-way stop.
"This has far fewer visual impacts than a stop light," he said. "I'm placing my trust in the engineers on this. Remember, this is only the very beginning of the process."
Commission Chair Cynthia Wood said she's been in many countries and that roundabouts are not a new idea. "They're an amazing means of moving traffic. I support the idea ... it's a forward looking solution to this intersection," she said.
In the vote, commissioners Bramfitt, Wood, Yvonne Bowers, Jeff Baptista and T. Patrick Smith voted for the proposal while commissioners Jenkins, Lindquist, Garry Baker and Rochelle Campana voted against. Richard Caselli and Bruce Green abstained. Caselli serves on the Hanna board and Green lives adjacent to Hanna. In remarks, both indicated they would vote for the project if they could.
The comments on the environmental impact of the project will be sent to county staff. Valley residents can also send their comments to Chris Seppeler at 565-8353, email comments to Chris.Seppeler@Sonoma-county.org or send them to the county's Permit and Resource Management Department, 2550 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa 95403-2829 by Aug. 10.