Leaders shouldn’t walk away from developer’s idea
April 11, 2005
The recent fender bender between developer Phil Carville and traffic planners should be regarded as nothing more than a bump in an important road.
Carville wants Grass Valley to be a community where walking is practical and not a life-threatening adventure, which it can be in even a bucolic area like this one. And he’s ready to stomp the accelerator to get there.
Recently, Carville hosted a presentation by Dan Burden, founder and executive director of Walkable Communities.
Burden’s two-hour slide show highlighted steps taken in other communities that he says have slowed down traffic and reintroduced a sense of community that boosts home values and benefits businesses along busy thoroughfares.
The event was attended by approximately 80 invited guests, including government and business leaders. Among those in attendance was reporter Becky Trout, who wrote a story that appeared on Page A3 of the next day’s The Union.
The program ended with slides of Grass Valley streets and intersections that Burden thought were ripe for improvements. Carville, clearly moved by the presentation, then went on a tour with Burden and others, including Dan Landon, executive director of the Nevada County Transportation Commission.
Together, they inspected several areas, including the Brunswick Basin, the Idaho-Maryland intersection, the Brunswick and East Main intersection, and the proposed Dorsey Drive interchange with the Golden Center Freeway.
Carville, a businessman probably accustomed to moving quickly, then sent a five-page letter with photographs to the mayors of Grass Valley and Nevada City, the chairman of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and other community leaders. He closed by asking for local governments to spend $40,000 for a regional traffic summit.
In his excitement, however, he apparently ran over some toes. For example, at one point he wrote that “in one day, Dan Burden came up with more solutions than most (government) staff would in a year.”
To that, Landon replied in his own two-page letter: “The concepts that Mr. Burden presented were focused on pedestrian issues. Before we can call them ‘solutions,’ we will need local data to verify the applicability of the concepts for each location.”
Carville did go on to qualify his statement by saying Burden might have more to offer in this particular area “because Dan has traveled through 1,800 cities looking for and seeing answers.” However, that evidently did little to soften the blow.
Landon also wrote that he believes Burden does not possess some of the needed expertise nor, perhaps, has the experience to resolve our particular thorny problems, especially in California’s complex regulatory environment.
It’s not unusual for entrepreneurs and public officials to clash. They do, after all, come from different directions when they meet.
In this case, however, let’s hope the topic does not become a casualty of bruised feelings.
Carville’s desire for a more walkable community is worth discussing, especially as gasoline prices skyrocket and residents proclaim that they came here to smell the roses and enjoy a small community where people still know their neighbors.
The discussion, however, is going to have to move to the slow lane.
Landon, in his letter, says he’s open to discussing new ideas but there are processes that must be followed.
So let’s hope that Carville will continue pushing his idea and that Landon and our elected leaders will work with him to bring these concepts from the drawing board to the table where we all can have the opportunity to discuss them.
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