Arroyo Grande drops eminent domain, roundabout idea: Santa Maria CA Times, 2/12/07

By Josh Petray

A preferred alternative for the Brisco Road-Halcyon Road interchange remains to be decided after the use of eminent domain to acquire land and relocate 200 to 250 gravesites for a roundabout has come to a halt.

“After all the concerns were discussed, it looks like we likely will not be pursuing the roundabout option in terms of any additional study at this time,” said Arroyo Grande City Manager Steve Adams.

Councilman Jim Guthrie said the roundabout was identified as a cheaper alternative in the range of $5 million, versus as much as $15 million or more for other options.

According to city officials, the roundabout option could have mitigated the need to widen the Brisco Road undercrossing at Highway 101.

Guthrie, along with Mayor Pro Tem Ed Arnold, both said they are not in support of moving forward with the roundabout option.

“I think that would be just bad policy if we were going to start condemning gravesites,” Arnold said.

Guthrie and Arnold met with representatives of Arroyo Grande Cemetery District and Brisco's Hardware to discuss the roundabout after a proposed $25,000 contract for a feasibility analysis and an environmental document for the project was voted down Jan. 9 by the City Council.

The Cemetery District and Brisco's Hardware both abut the intersection and neither support the roundabout.

If the city were to pursue the roundabout, it might be necessary to acquire cemetery land by means of condemnation, according to Adams.

It's land where an estimated 200 to 250 graves currently sit, according to Mike Marsalek, general manager of the cemetery.

Arroyo Grande Cemetery District board member Tom Runels said gravesite relocation would cost about $6,000 to $8,000 per grave.

That doesn't sit well with the district board, whose members said they've received a handful of calls in opposition to the roundabout and moving gravesites, Runels said.

“I would say, ‘Think about if your loved one was disinterred. That wouldn't be nice,'” Marsalek said. “You can see why we're against it. People would be outraged, and that's what a couple of people have said, that if anything were to happen to the cemetery ... it's kind of like, sacred, almost on a moral ground. It would almost be immoral to take away something like this.”

Said Marsalek, “Think about the legal problems with families with their loved ones - it's almost a moral issue, isn't it? We've had several calls from people. Nobody says, ‘Do it.' Everybody says, ‘Don't do it.'”

Brisco's Hardware owner Howard Mankins said 75-foot delivery trucks would have problems negotiating the roundabout and making deliveries to the store.

“On Fridays when our delivery time comes, we'll have a couple of trucks parked out on the street out there trying to get in,” he explained. “Well, they can't get in, so they have to wait until one gets out.

“Well, can you see a 75-foot truck in a roundabout, or a second one, or a third one, waiting to get into our parking lot?” he said. “Right now, they park on the street. We even go out now and halt traffic to get them in and out without a roundabout.”

Mankins suggested improvements to El Campo Road, south of Arroyo Grande, as an alternative to solving traffic problems at the Brisco Road interchange.

“We are getting an enormous amount of traffic from the Nipomo Mesa, and they come down Halcyon Road directly to the freeway right here at this intersection, and they could go over to El Campo and get on the freeway there if (an interchange there) were built,” Mankins said.

City officials have also said the roundabout option would likely trigger the need for a full environmental impact report, thereby delaying the project beyond the deadline to request 2008 State Transportation Improvement Program funds.

Adams said the city will come up with other options and select a preferred alternative in late spring or early summer.

Santa Maria CA Times: http://www.santamariatimes.com