ARCO station gets the go-ahead
The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors denied Green Valley Center owner Amy Anders’ appeal of the proposed AMPM slated for the corner of Green Valley Road and Sophia Parkway last week, conceptually approving the project with the addition of an acceptable drop lane or tapered entrance feature.
The 2.12 acre site located on the southeast corner of the intersection will include a gas station, convenience store, Schlotzsky’s Deli and Cinnabon drive-thru and a car wash.
Through she has objections to the project’s unappealing aesthetics, traffic and noise, Anders said her No. 1 reason for fighting the project and paying the $200 appeal fee is public safety.
“If I didn’t appeal the decision, construction would already be under way,” she said in an interview with Village Life leading up to last Tuesday’s meeting. “I didn’t fully understand the full gravity of the dysfunction in the planning process in El Dorado County until I experienced it firsthand.”
Anders fought for a turn lane to move traffic out of the Green Valley Road travel lane and give cars traveling 50-plus mph more time to brake before turning into the ARCO station. She acknowledged at the Nov. 5 board meeting that she’s “not a traffic engineer” but argued that roadway Level of Service and the prevailing speed on Green Valley Road were not addressed in the California Environmental Quality Act process and that the entire project should have had a full Environmental Impact Report.
“We have the second busiest intersection in El Dorado Hills yet the developer (Mark Strauch) doesn’t have to include a turn lane,” said Anders, referring to CEDAC-EDH’s recent traffic and transportation progress report they gathered from California Highway Patrol data.
District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco also clarified that he’s “not a traffic engineer,” as did deputy county counsel Dave Livingston. Though figuring prominently in the Anders’ appeal, county engineering staff assured the board that the traffic engineering component of the proposed project was professionally produced and valid.
Mikulaco asked Department of Transportation engineer Dave Spiegelberg midway through the meeting, “Are we creating an unsafe situation?”
“I believe we are not creating an unsafe situation,” Spiegelberg replied. He had earlier confirmed his “professional” agreement with the traffic analyses and conclusions contained in the project’s environmental impact documents.
The main safety concern centered on the length and width of the turning area from Green Valley Road into the project and introduced engineering terms such as “drop lane” and “deceleration lane” and a “tapered entrance.” According to the traffic analysis, the developer could “mitigate” the project in such a way as to allow safe ingress and egress with a slight widening of the existing lane. The environmental documents support that conclusion.
Project representative Dan Goalwin challenged Anders over the traffic and safety questions saying “all CEQA agrees, it’s not a problem (as do the engineers and planning commission). No experts think a deceleration lane is necessary.”
Goalwin later characterized his client’s reported willingness to modify the project with some kind of turn lane as “a compromise.” A standard deceleration lane was described as slightly more than 400 feet, but the parcel in question would only allow about half of that distance paralleling Green Valley Road. Goalwin again noted, “None of our experts said it is necessary … and I don’t (overrule) the experts.”
Project proponents do have some community support.
“Improving the property will be such an asset,” said Barbara Orosco, owner of the property where Green Valley Nursery resides down the road. “And the tax revenues garnered are certainly positive points. Upgrading the looks of Green Valley Road and adding businesses that beautify this area are good for all.”
Prior to the meeting, Anders predicted her requests would be shot down, saying, “The position the county is going to take is to play ostrich. That means they’re unwilling to review the traffic impact analysis or wait for the corridor analysis, which will give a definitive answer about the status of that intersection. They want to rush to get this guy in so they can collect the $200,000 in Traffic Impact Mitigation fees and the sales tax revenue.”
Longtime El Dorado Hills resident Marjorie Peters owns a home and acreage on Amy’s Lane next to the proposed ARCO site. She supported Anders’ efforts and signed the petition to stop the project. As of this printing Anders has more than 500 signatures.
“The ARCO is going to bring boats and motor homes pulling in,” said Peters. “There are cars parked all up Sophia Parkway already. I have neighbors who won’t even come to visit anymore.”
“These large vehicles will bring traffic to a standstill,” said Anders. “I have diagrams that show a 40-foot tanker delivery truck (bringing goods and gas to the ARCO AMPM) will take two travel lanes to make the turn and completely stop traffic there. There will be a minimum of 16 to 20 truckloads delivered every week.”
Anders thinks of neighbors like Marjorie when she stands on the corner holding a protest sign. “It would really hurt me if one of my friends or neighbors got killed; that’s why I’m out here,” she said. “I talked to eight different traffic engineers and three agreed a turn lane would be appropriate for this project and would make it safer, but they didn’t want to go on the record for fear of jeopardizing current bids on future work in El Dorado County.”
She called the compromise unanimously approved by the supervisors an expanded shoulder, or “a faux turn lane.”
“It’s like offering too short of a landing strip for an airplane,” Anders explained. “My biggest problem is that El Dorado County is so pro-development they’re willing to sacrifice public safety.”
The project is scheduled to come back before the board for final ruling on Dec. 10. Anders said she plans to file a lawsuit to address what she calls unresolved issues.
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