By Jill Lufrano
SUN VALLEY — A plan to build a freeway connector through Sun Valley has stirred heated emotions among numerous residents and leaders in this small community, many of whom were prompted to attend a public meeting Tuesday on the issue held by the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC).
Planning officials have whittled the estimated $660 million Pyramid Highway/U.S. 395 freeway connector project to two choices: a path that is 500 feet north of the Dandini Boulevard and El Rancho Drive intersection, on the east side Dandini; and another further north near Rampion Way, according to RTC project manager Doug Maloy.
Both choices previously have been rejected by the Sun Valley community.
Warren Brighton, president of Sun Valley Citizens Advisory Board, said the freeway connector plan was presented to the board three times in the past. Each time, the CAB voted down the proposal.
“One time, not only did we say ‘no’ to what they were talking about, last night we citizens preferred the North Valley alternative,” Brighton said Wednesday. “That’s what we would prefer. That’s been proposed several times.”
Maloy said last week the two southern routes were selected as alternatives because fewer homes and businesses would be displaced. Brighton said the northern routes were favored by the community because when they were proposed in 2003, they were far from any development.
“You’re not taking up people’s homes,” Brighton said about the routes the community favored in 2003. “It’s undeveloped land.You’re not cutting through somebody’s house. That relieves traffic pressure. That’s what the people of Sun Valley have been saying.”
Dale Carpenter, who will turn 69 this weekend, is a single mother who has raised three children and lives in a manufactured house she has called home for more than three decades. According to a map released by the RTC, her home is directly in the path of one of the favored routes for the freeway connector.
Many attendees at Tuesday’s meeting felt officials were already set on building the freeway connector, regardless of community input.
Carpenter has redone much of her home in a cottage style, she said. Her backyard has been planted to resemble an English garden with a large deck.
“I’ve redone everything in my mobile,” Carpenter said. “I love my house. I love my property. It’s been a good home.”
At the meeting, she struggled with her disabilities as she waited more than an hour for RTC and Nevada Department of Transportation officials to begin speaking. When they did, they talked mostly about how homeowners and businesses should proceed to turn over their properties to the government. Residents were given a limited amount of time to ask questions, Carpenter said.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is just a joke,” she added about the meeting. “This was already planned years ago. Last night, they were just going through the motions. I think they’re going to do what they’re going to do because it puts money in their pockets because that’s what politicians do.”
Another resident, Jerry Corbari, circulated a petition at the meeting from the Sun Valley Home Owners Coalition. The petition called for stopping the RTC from “permanently damaging Sun Valley.” It also stated that as the voting public, they could decide whether their representatives should remain in office as RTC board members and singled them out by name, position and region.
“The RTC chose this devastating route despite having another much more viable route available north of Sun Valley that would not impact any homes,” the petition stated. “Sign the petition to tell the RTC, our county commissioner and our City Council members that Sun Valley does matter, that our community and its residents do matter, and that we will not sit idly by while they make decisions that negatively impact our lives.”
The petition has begun to circulate, but Corbari is concerned that people were not told about the project until it was too late.
“They didn’t tell us about this for all these years,” Corbari said. “Yet, they’re still selling houses in this area. People are still moving into these houses that they’re going to take from them.”
Corbari said he has started a grassroots effort to circulate the petition in the affected neighborhoods and community.
“There’s no win about it,” he said.
RTC spokesman Michael Moreno said he thought the meeting went “really good.”
“The citizens were really happy with the information they received,” Moreno said. “Basically, what we heard from attendees is that they appreciated what they heard and they had a better understanding of the project.”
Project officials have held several meetings over the years about the project, Moreno said. Many questions Sun Valley residents had entailed the acquisition process, he said. That’s why Tuesday’s meeting focused on that issue.
“We were specifically deliberate about that,” Moreno said. “There weren’t a lot of questions specific to the alternatives.”
The RTC will prepare a draft Environmental Impact Study in October to be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration. The FDA will hold a meeting to gather public input following that submission, Moreno said.