VENICE — Some Venice City Council members were so eager to move forward Tuesday with widening Laurel Road that they were ready to pick an option for the work and sign a contract with developer Pat Neal to get a design started.

There wasn’t a contract to sign, however, because the terms are still being worked out, City Manager Ed Lavallee said.

The city has been contemplating using up to $400,000 in road impact fees from the county to get a 30% design done, while Neal has proposed 10% — enough, he told the Council last month, to support cost estimates.

Then the Council could pick from one of three options and proceed to get the design taken to 30%, he said.

Option A would widen the road to four lanes with no median. Neal said it would be the cheapest choice, at about $8 million, because no right of way would have to be acquired and no power poles moved.

Option B includes a median the full length of the 1.5-mile section to be widened. Four to six parcels would have to be acquired from owners who aren’t eager to sell, he said.

That would mean the city would have to condemn them in a court proceeding, adding time and cost. The construction alone would be about $9.5 million, Neal said.

Option C calls for a median only where the right of way is owned by Neal. The price would be about $9 million, he said.

There would be additional expense related to any of the options for lighting, irrigation, landscaping and, if desired, a multi-use trail. Bike lanes would be included.

Option C seems to be the most practical, Lavallee said, but staff are concerned that taking the engineering work only to the 10% level won’t provide the Council all the information it needs.

In particular, he said, there’s a need to know what’s underground, as it will play a big role in where the road can go.

A line from the Peace River Water Authority crosses under the road twice, he said, and runs near, but not parallel to the southern border of the existing road.

The city doesn’t want any surprises, he said.

The difference between the estimated cost of 10% design — $100,000-$140,000, Neal said earlier — is insignificant compared to the overall cost of the project, Lavallee said.

“We would be more comfortable asking him to do the 30% design,” he said. “We would rather spend the extra money and get all the answers, the broader scope of work, so that we can make more of a cogent decision about doing the project.”

Council Member Helen Moore was ready to move forward right away.

“This is a slow walk and I’m frustrated with it, and I sense a couple of others are, too,” she said. “Let’s just do this.”

Before anyone could translate that sentiment into a motion, Vice Mayor Rich Cautero raised a point of order.

He noted that the topic came up during Lavallee’s report and wasn’t an agenda item. Both Neal and the public might want to comment on it, he said.

Mayor Ron Feinsod sustained the point of order, ending the discussion.

Lavallee said he couldn’t promise that there would be a draft agreement to consider at the next meeting, on Dec. 8.

It will be the last Council meeting before the new year.


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