Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Act now to preserve the real Arroyo Grande Village

Possible big changes in the Arroyo Grande Village have created controversy surrounding the Centennial/City Hall Project under consideration by the Arroyo Grande City Council.

The central issue is a simple choice. Do we want to continue to enjoy the ambiance created by our historic and authentic old buildings in the Village or do we support the creation of a developer’s theme park version of the Village, with spray-on stucco and faux brick or rock?

With the Centennial/City Hall Project, the city would acquire 300 E. Branch St. (the Farm Credit Building) for city offices and trade to NKT Commercial LLC. 200 E. Branch St. and 208 E. Branch St. (the Conrad house) along with the 15 parking spaces in between the two buildings. In addition to the properties, NKT Commercial would also receive $1.2 million.

In sum, NKT Commercial acquires two properties, parking spaces and more than a million dollars. The city acquires one building and $1.2 million of new debt.

Is the city demonstrating good fiscal policy in light of the current economy? City Manager Steve Adams, in his Times Press Recorder opinion piece (“City floats revised project for Village,” Feb. 18) makes the complicated argument that the city needs to acquire debt in order to save money. In his lengthy article, Adams does not state the dollar amount of the project. If the national, state and local economies continue to be stagnant or falter, will local taxes have to rise?

The Village of Arroyo Grande is historic. The current project would demolish the mid 1950s “Malt Shop” at 200 E. Branch St. and relinquish ownership of an even older building (the Conrad House). What would the public gain besides the acquisition of the Farm Credit building? Would we benefit from the construction of oversized generic “McBuildings?” Would we gain the attention of other developers that want to demolish small and build big? At least one developer has been paying close attention to the proceedings of the last few weeks.

Hasn’t the city been here before? Remember the construction of the glass-fronted contemporary Village Centre, next to the old church, at the western end of the Village? This is the development that is still referred to, by many people, as the “Big Monstrosity.” The Centennial/City Hall Project is in the heart of the Village. Can we afford another error in planning judgment?

The City Council will vote on the Centennial/City Hall project, including the fate of Short Street, during a special city council meeting at 6 p.m. Monday. Many of the landowners along East Branch Street and Traffic Way want Short Street to remain open to maintain current traffic circulation and accessible parking.

Will Short Street remain open? Will the demolition of the “Malt Shop” be approved? Will the city borrow $1.2 million and trade away city-owned properties? Is this the beginning of another trend toward a theme park Village and away from the authentic historic Village? Is the Centennial/City Hall Project the tipping point?

Please be informed.

Research the project at www.arroyogrande.org.

Audio recordings of city council meetings are available at slospan@charter.net. Adams can be reached at 473-5404.

We must act now to modify or stop the Centennial/City Hall Project and preserve the real genuine Village. Attend the City Council meeting and voice your concerns. Write, e-mail or call the mayor and City Council members regarding your own issues. Our informal group of concerned citizens welcomes your suggestions and/or concerns regarding the preservation of the Village.

Our e-mail address: villagealliance@mtpicacho.net. Help us keep the Village of Arroyo Grande historic and real. Shirley Gibson serves on the city’s Historical Resources Committee. She is writing as a concerned citizen and member of the Village Alliance. Other supporters of the Village Alliance include Gordon and Manetta Bennett; Connie Cetti, landowner and proprietor of The Green Vase; Celia Furness, proprietor of Village Antique Mart; and Ira Hughes, proprietor of Ira’s Bike Shop.