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Proposed traffic signal tears apart community

Options include applying for Coastal Development Permit, modifying project or submit new application to Caltrans, city manager says.

June 07, 2012|By Barbara Diamond

A proposed traffic signal has pitted Emerald Bay residents against one another, with supporters intending to pursue the installation, regardless of opposition from their neighbors.

Supporters of the signal say it is the cornerstone of the proposal packaged by the Emerald Bay Special Services District and Emerald Bay Community Assn. boards as a safety project.

Opponents say they would support other elements of the proposed project, which include landscaping, relocating the gate house further back on Emerald Bay property, adding an ingress lane to Shamrock Road, and extending turning and merging lanes on the highway.

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"I am totally in favor of making the highway safer; I am just opposed to the signal," said Steve Rabago, who collected 199 opposition signatures. "The community should make the improvements related to safety and then monitor them for five years."

The council denied an exemption from a Coastal Development Permit, required to install the signal, at the May 15 City Council meeting.

The council agreed to work with Emerald Bay on other improvements, but no formal agreement has been signed.

Emerald Bay boards spokesman Harry Woloson said this week that options are being researched, but no decisions have been made.

"They can still apply for a Coastal Development Permit for the signal," said City Manager John Pietig. "They can also apply to Caltrans for a project without the signal, modifying the project or submit a new application.

"I have not heard that Caltrans would not entertain a version of the project that did not include the signal."

Caltrans spokeswoman Gloria Roberts said the proposed signal and road improvements were approved as one project in an encroachment permit, issued in Oct. of 2011 and terminating Dec. 31.

The approval was subject to the City Council's decision on the coastal permit exemption request, which is not appealable to the California Coastal Commission.

"The signal is the heart and soul of the project," Woloson said. "Without it, we deplete the money, but the same safety issues would still exist."

However, the proposed improvements would be beneficial with or without the signal, according to the Fehr and Peers independent report commissioned by the city.

Conversely, the signal would not be a benefit without the other improvements, according to the report.

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