Road to casino getting smooth
RP invokes powers of eminent domain on Wilfred Avenue
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By Jud Snyder  February 15, 2013 12:00 am

There was a palpable sense of urgency Tuesday night in Rohnert Park’s City Hall when the city council approved slicing off about 35 feet of land abutting Wilfred Avenue from private property owners to upgrade this main road leading to the Graton Tribe casino. All five members of the council were present and all of the votes were unanimous.

The city invoked its powers of eminent domain in negotiating with property owners, and according to Darrin Jenkins, city engineer and newly-named assistant city manager, 17 of the 22 property owners along the length of Wilfred Avenue from Redwood Drive to Stony Point Road have agreed with the city’s terms without the necessity of eminent domain action. The owners are scattered on either the north or south sides of the road.

“We anticipate 11,000 vehicle trips on Wilfred Avenue each day once the casino is open,” said Jenkins. “We’re in negotiations with all five. The county court still has to approve the terms. But this action allows us to proceed with road construction this summer season.”

The plans for Wilfred Avenue (renamed by the city Golf Course Drive West), call for four lanes of traffic, turn lanes north and south and traffic signals where needed, bicycle paths, sidewalks on the north side and flood control measures. The road is in both RP and Sonoma County, and Langner Avenue is the dividing line. It conforms to both the city and county General Plans. The construction contract says the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria (FIGR) will pay for total costs of the project.

The closest land to the city is a 1.3-acre parcel owned by Amy’s Kitchen on the southwest corner of Wilfred and Redwood Drive. They plan to open a restaurant here featuring produce grown on nearby farms and health-oriented foods. They have yet to agree to the city’s terms, but negotiations are continuing, said Jenkins. An agreement with Tesconi Trust Co. has been signed in a separate deal with alternate changes in the timing of eminent domain.

The only verbal protest Tuesday night came from Chris Christoforidis of the Christoforidis Family Trust of San Francisco, owners of property on the south side of Wilfred Avenue. “What’s going to happen to our water well?” he asked. “We’ve gotten no information from the city on this project.”

No one from city staff or the council responded to his protest.

Other property owners who have not yet accepted the city’s proposal include May Sue Chang, Raymond and Sophi Ann Loosli of the Loosli 1993 Trust and Danny Ortega of the former Mendenhall Revocable Trust. Negotiations with them are still underway, said Jenkins.

Meanwhile, the casino and its three-story parking garage have extra construction shifts busily working. The need for finishing the work on Wilfred Avenue before casino opens its doors, probably early next year, provides the urgency.

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