Sonora widens its ‘Vision’

By Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat October 09, 2013 11:30 am

Stockton Road could see an extension of a multi-use trail from the fairgrounds to downtown Sonora. Courtesy art, 2013
Sonora could see more outdoor seating, increased green space, better parking and more if the proposals and projects in the latest draft of the city’s ongoing “Vision Sonora” project become a reality.

The city has released a draft of the plan, which will lay out proposals and projects meant to bolster parking, attractions, public spaces, historic preservation, business and appearances around the city. 

The draft was compiled with input from members of the public, local officials and consultants, as well as public comments gathered early this year during special meetings on the Vision plan.

Architects of the plan revealed details of the draft during an Oct. 1 open house, which drew about 100 people, according to city Community Development Director Rachelle Kellogg. A digital copy of that plan is also available on the city website, www.sonora ca.com.

“Overall, we’ve been very pleased with the public participation and the amount of public participation we’ve received,” she said.

A second draft of the Vision Sonora plan will incorporate input gathered at and after the open house, and Kellogg said the City Council will likely consider adopting a final draft of the plan in early December.

Funded by a state grant, the $225,000 plan outlines myriad ideas and projects along the main corridors of Washington Street and Stockton Road that will become priorities for city government. Projects include improvements to landscaping at corners and mini-parks called “parklets” to improve aesthetics. 

The Vision plan also includes proposals for improved bus stops and foot trails, as well as public space concepts like pedestrian plazas for walking and outdoor seating along side streets like Linoberg.

Bill Canning, a city councilman who has helped drive the Vision Sonora process, said he’s been getting largely positive feedback so far from people. 

Canning said Tuesday that the city has an incentive to have the final plan in place by the beginning of next year, as almost $1 million in grant funding is expected to become available in February for these projects.

“I go to the restaurant, I go to the market, I get stopped and asked about it,” he said of the plan. “I say, ‘We’re working on it.’ ”

Not all at City Hall are thrilled about the plan. Longtime Councilman Ron Stearn questioned some of the ideas in the draft, including removing some parking on Washington Street between Church Street and Restano Way and planting hundreds of trees in town.

“I hope we don’t have to do all of it,” Stearn said.

Adopting the plan would not make such projects inevitable or even mean approval of the projects themselves. However, Kellogg said it will help the city and other local agencies seek outside funding sources for further plans and construction.