The Cotati City Council indicated Wednesday it will place a voter-driven initiative that would prohibit roundabouts on the Nov. 6 ballot, after first being told its passage would disrupt key city policies and public works projects, as well as potentially reduce safety on its streets.
Such impacts were suggested in a report the council asked for last month and that effectively served as a pre-emptive election argument against an ordinance it clearly opposes.
"The initiative is inconsistent with everything we say in our general plan," Mayor Susan Harvey said.
The initiative, which the council will likely place on the ballot at its Aug. 8 meeting, would implement an ordinance that would ban roundabouts or similar "traffic features" from ever being built within the city's limits.
The council has the option of adopting it as an ordinance or putting it to voters. Harvey noted that the ability for citizens to force a vote on something is a welcome feature of democracy — then added that "next it could be no one is allowed in the parks."
Angry murmurs greeted that statement, issuing from a large crowd that had threaded the meeting with accusations that the council is in league with a United Nations-led effort to subvert the U.S. Constitution and, in particular, private property rights.
Those speakers included roundabout foes who said that opposition to the initiative on the part of three council members up for re-election this year, including Harvey, will play out against them at the polls.
"I think it's going to be very much a flashpoint for voters," Kathryn Wickstrom said.
Though she lives outside the city and cannot vote on city issues, Wickstrom has been a vocal opponent of the city's plan to install two roundabouts on Old Redwood Highway as part of a $3.5 million redesign of its downtown.
The initiative petition grew out of opposition to that plan, which the council approved in December after nearly a year of often-heated public discussion.
Part of a long-planned revitalization, it was intended to maintain a small-town feel, spur more economic activity and make the street more attractive and safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and shoppers.
Opponents said it would jam traffic, cause accidents and stifle business on the half-mile corridor.
Those complaints were amplified by Oliver's Market officials, who said they would pull out of their plan to open a store downtown if the plan was adopted. The company has since indicated it will remain at its current East Cotati Avenue location.
You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.