The current Village Main Street plan was approved December 14, 2011 but had two roundabouts as key components along the Old Redwood Highway. With Measure U effectively preventing that plan from working the logical question is what happens next?
All of the candidates from the past City Council election agreed that Measure U was an important issue because of how it affected the downtown plan.
"We might need to design something new or work with the local businesses to see what they want and find something that appeals to everyone," Alden Olmstead said.
We talked with Dianne Thompson, the City Manager for Cotati, and this is what she had to say regarding the process, "With Measure U passing, we are trying to find a way to not have the City disqualified from future Federal Street Funding since we can't build the project as designed. The City needs to use at least a portion of the federal grant funds received in order to prevent disqualification from future grant funding. We are looking at the possibility of a smaller gateway project instead of the Village Mainstreet Project approved by the City Council."
While there has been mention of a possible lawsuit as a way to overturn Measure U due to the potential financial hardship the city might face, that is not currently on the city's radar.
When asked about the possibility of a lawsuit, Dianne Thompson's reply was, "This is not a topic of discussion. The Council is focused on moving forward."
One thing that was very apparent after talking to so many people about the issue before and after the election is that there is a distinct feeling of disconnect between people.
Many of those who were behind the downtown plan didn't understand why so many people were "suddenly" against roundabouts when the plan had passed through so many rounds of approval including public meetings.
The process of planning, listening to ideas, and approval of the plans involves a certain amount of public visibility, so why were people not making their voices heard in 2011 before the plan was set in place?
The final vote tally of 1494 people that approved Measure U, versus the 1100 against, made it clear that the majority of Cotati's citizens did not like the idea. Mayor Harvey and others have said many times they are trying to work within the best interests of everyone within the city, but can only do so much if people do not let their opinions be known.
There certainly is a difference between being reactive versus proactive and Measure U was a reactive event. As the stages of planning move forward, everyone involved is hopeful that the community will be present and active during the various phases to help ensure that the majority of the city's residents are happy with whatever new plan is created.
As a reminder, Cotati City Council meetings are open to the public and take place every other Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Building. You can view the calendar of meetings on the City's Website which also includes links to agendas.
What do you think would be a good idea for the downtown plan? Should the public be more involved in the process by attending meetings to voice their opinions? Tell us in the comments and let your voice be heard!