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Cotati scales back downtown redesign in wake of roundabout ban

Cotati officials who in 2011 happily settled on a controversial $3.5 million redesign of the downtown have altered their course following a ballot initiative that banned roundabouts from the city.

The passage of Measure U in November killed off the Village Main Street project, which would have narrowed Old Redwood Highway to two lanes and installed two roundabouts on a half-mile stretch that is Cotati's commercial center.

Now the city is hurriedly trying to design a smaller project to achieve some of the same goals of making the downtown a more inviting area for residents, businesses and shoppers.

"It will include some of the elements that were in the prior project, but it's much scaled back," said City Manager Dianne Thompson.

The city must submit a new project proposal by February to keep a $1.1 million Metropolitan Transportation Commission grant that was to help pay for the Village Main Street plan. Measure U backers say that's the sensible path — if the new plan does not add to the city's debt.

"If they've got the money, why lose it," said Rick Stewart, owner of Arch's Glass. He said street resurfacing and landscaping, and signal lights to control traffic would be worthwhile improvements.

If it returns the MTC money, the city will be ineligible for additional grants for road and transit improvements for three years, Thompson said.

"I think that would just be an incredible loss for the community, not only to lose the money for downtown improvements but also to be disqualified for future grants," said Councilman Mark Landman.

The money from the transportation commission — which has also awarded the city $1.5 million for a commuter train depot — can only be used for streetscape and pedestrian and bicycle features.

The council in December agreed to pay Omni-Means, an engineering and planning firm that designed the earlier plan, an additional $69,000 to redo the project proposal.

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