An ongoing, “new Main Street” project has passed the environmental study stage which determined it will not have a negative impact on the downtown community.
At its meeting this past Monday, the Bishop City Council approved Public Works Department Director David Grah’s recommendation to adopt a Negative Declaration for the Warren Street Improvement Project. The Negative Declaration essentially and officially declared the project free of adverse environmental impacts.
The Negative Declaration Grah presented is the result of an initial study, funded in the amount of $144,000 by California Transportation Commission. It generally describes the project and solicits “input from agencies and the public regarding (its)scope,” according to a staff report from City Administrator Keith Caldwell.
The Initial Study specifically found that the Warren Street Improvement Project would not have an adverse impact in categories such as population, aesthetics, natural and cultural resources, water quality, noise, transportation and utilities and service systems. In fact, Grah said, it is hoped that the improvement project would have a positive impact on the economic environment in the Warren Street corridor.
The project is intended to correct the corridor’s deteriorating and inadequate features and add enhancing, and hopefully enticing, features like street performance areas, a variety of trees including large shade trees, murals and public art, awnings, rest rooms and sidewalk markings celebrating Bishop’s heritage, Grah said.
The Negative Declaration and Initial Study for the project were released for public comment on Dec. 28. On Jan. 11, Public Works sent out 190 letters to property owners and tenants in the project vicinity.
Three responses were received by the Jan. 28 deadline.
According to Grah, a letter from the state agency, Native American Heritage Commission, outlines “laws and procedures related to Native American historic properties or resources.”
A letter from Caltrans, the agency responsible for Main Street, presents issues of compliance and requirements concerning: Caltrans’ planned Americans with Disabilities Act project on Main and West Line streets; the need for adequate “intersection sight distance” to ensure safe approach and navigation by vehicles; and over-street banners and archways. “Banners need to be high enough to let vehicles through safely,” Grah said.
The third letter was from the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, which states that it “supports the city’s effort to improve management of storm water” drainage; encourages other low-impact design features to “enhance or increase infiltration of storm water;” and lists possible permits the city may need to implement the project.
The city “adequately addressed all of the above issues and comments in the Initial Study and subsequent Negative Declaration,” Grah said.
Grah said there has been “substantial public outreach” by the city to solicit community input on the project. Several mass mailings and numerous news releases have invited the public to participate in monthly focus group and other public meetings. There have been numerous articles in The Inyo Register and PSAs on the web. The Jan. 12 “professionally-led” workshop offered the public a plethora of design options from which to choose.
Now that the Negative Declaration has been approved, Grah said, the city is eligible to get funding to start the engineering plans and designs. The final design phase is scheduled to start by late summer. There is one change to the project’s timeline, he added. It is likely that the project will not break ground in 2014 as previously planned. “There is likely to be a two-year delay” while additional funding is sought.
Grah revisited the project’s overall goal, which is the “revitalization” of North and South Warren Street between South and Elm streets, including the sections of those streets between Warren and Main streets. Grah said the project will afford the city the opportunity to create a “second Main Street,” although this one will be locally-controlled, Grah said. It is “not just a regular pavement, curb, gutter and sidewalk” upgrade. Instead it will include “features to make for a more pleasant place to visit, eat, walk, shop.”
During the City Council meeting, Caldwell recognized Gary Schley “for all the work he did on the project.” Schley is the city building inspector and has been part of the Warren Street planning staff.