Placerville Roundabout Petitions Being Turned In
Enough petition signatures for an initiative to block a roundabout at the Druids Monument at Cedar Ravine and Main Street will be turned in at City Hall in Placerville Thursday, according to Friends of Historic Hangtown, sponsors of the efforts. Representatives of the group said more than enough qualified signatures have been obtained, in the shortest petition campaign anyone can recall, to qualify for the November ballot, a measure that if approved by voters would require a public vote on building all roundabouts in town.
In all the years he has been in office, El Dorado County’s chief of elections, William Schultz, said: “I’ve never seen an initiative drive completed so quickly. Regardless of the merits, it’s wonderful to see this type of participation by voters in the democratic process.”
Friends of Historic Hangtown members will be at the city hall on Center Street near HW 50 at high noon Thursday to carry the petitions up to the door, delivered by a pony express rider. The city has up to thirty days to review them, matching the signatures against the official list of voters, before they are turned over to the county for a final review to have the measure officially qualified to go on the November general election ballot.
The roundabout has been a very contentious issue, prompting sharp debate at city council meetings in recent years, with council members aware of tremendous opposition to the project. At the August 9, 2011 city council meeting, then Mayor David Machado said, "I guess what’s been the most amazing for me is hearing it from well respected people in the community that I trust and respect and that almost to a person I’m finding that there is no traction and no support for the Roundabout. So, after months of talking with folks both in and outside the City I’m not finding very many people who support the Roundabout." Council member Wendy Thomas at that time added, “It’s interesting that you bring this up tonight because I, too, have had very similar discussions."
Most of us wanted a recall election for council members who ignored public wishes about the roundabout but we decided that the more conservative course at this time would be to create a city law that a roundabout could be built only with a vote of the people, all but insuring that it does not happen,” said Dave Price, one of the organizers, adding, “Citizens repeatedly requested a vote to let the people decide on roundabouts and were completely ignored. “
Owner of C&H Motor Parts and an early sponsor of Friends of Historic Hangtown, Wilbur Howe, he said, “The roundabout is a horrible idea; terrible for area business and terrible for history.”
“The public was told at the last town meeting on this issue that we would be consulted with more public sessions to consider all options to the roundabout, but those promises were ignored as the council moved forward with a tax payer funded study that would be required to build a roundabout,” said Evelyn Veerkamp, “making that town hall business look like just another public relations scheme to push through. They created considerable mistrust.”
This issue has had a long and tortured history. On February 8, 2011, the Placerville City Council adopted a resolution approving the lay Street and Cedar Ravine roundabout. Twenty four residents including affected business owners spoke against it while five persons supported the project.
A civic group opposed to the project formed Friends of Historic Hangtown in July of 2011 and filed suit against the city, alleging that it failed to have the required environmental impact report and the court found for them in September of 2011. Not satisfied with that ruling, a majority of the council sought to start the process all over again by seeking the required studies with a vote on October 22nd of last year with the approval of $155,994 for the needed environmental impact report. Council member Trisha Wilkins voted against the move, complaining that the city was “trying to shove it down our throats.” At the following council meeting, an additional sum of $40,000 was added for that study on their consent calendar, closing off the opportunity for public comment, further adding to public mistrust, members of this group said. Most members of the public were surprised, they said, to find that the project is still simmering.
“The apparent success of this petition drive in such a short period of time speaks volumes about the public outrage over this plan,” said 91 year old Gloria Smith, a life time resident of the town, “It’s an absolutely asinine idea.”