In a step to create safer traffic conditions south of Highway 12 in the Flag City commercial area, San Joaquin County officials are negotiating with a winegrape grower to buy 2.16 acres for traffic improvements.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 with Supervisor Steve Bestolarides absent to reserve the right to acquire the land by eminent domain, but supervisors made it clear that condemnation is not the preference.
The issue goes back to 1998, when the Board of Supervisors approved a plan to improve Flag City streets in preparation for the restaurants, fast-food establishments, gas stations and RV park that exist today. More commercial establshements are planned for people driving along Interstate 5 and Highway 12 once the economy recovers, interim Public Works Director Tom Gau told the board.
The county wants to acquire the land, owned by C&C Farms, to realign Thornton Road south of Highway 12 and extend Star Street so an easier turn can be made where Star Street and Highway 12 intersect.
Supervisor Ken Vogel noted the hazardous turn for motorists who are headed north on Thornton Road and then west on Highway 12. Drivers must now cross several lanes after turning right on Highway 12 and then making a U-turn at Star Street.
When the improvements are completed, drivers can go north to Star and make an easy left turn at the traffic light. Gau said he hopes that the road realignment will begin in 2012 and take one construction season.
Cost is $57,600, based on the appraised value and most recent purchase offer. The land purchase would be financed by traffic impact fees assessed by the county, according to a staff report. The entire vineyard is about 75 acres.
“I think we want to get Monty Hall in here and ‘let’s make a deal,’” board chairman Larry Ruhstaller said at Tuesday’s meeting.
After the vote, Ruhstaller told the county’s Public Works staff, “Go forth and solve the problem. Thank you.”
Patrick Costa, general partner for the vineyard, his attorney, Jeffrey Heiser, and Public Works officials left the meeting and had a preliminary talk in a county conference room.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at email@example.com.