Council opposes closure of road

Gilman Springs: Scientology lawyer asks in vain for San Jacinto to hold off on resolution.

The Valley Chronicle, California/September 11, 2009

A plea from Scientology attorney Sam Alhadeff to take no action on a proposed resolution opposing the closure of Gilman Springs Road fell on deaf ears at last week's meeting of the San Jacinto City Council.

The five council members voted unanimously to oppose any effort to close the road.

Alhadeff said in a letter to the city that the council should withhold action until the Scientologists have an opportunity to prepare a formal proposal that would include ways to mitigate the impact of closing the road.

Alhadeff conceded that the Church of Scientology representatives are considering proposing closure of the road, but said nothing has been decided.

Nonetheless, Scientologists have hired consultants and commissioned studies of the road and alternatives to it should it be shut down, he said.

He said they have come to believe "such studies, when complete, will demonstrate the vacation may be appropriately considered and that, indeed, safer transportation corridors and mitigation measures could be implemented."

He did not, however, say what those mitigation measures may be.

No matter, Councilman Jim Ayres said. "My constituents do not want the road closed."

In fact, he said, Riverside County's general plan foresees the road as expanded to four lanes.

That, said Alhadeff, is both logistically and financially unlikely.

"When you talk with engineers, geotechnical advisers, traffic engineers, and simply review the requirements that would be necessary, the cost to widen and straighten Gilman would be extraordinary if it could be done at all."

In fact, he said, rather than reducing the Golden Era Productions complex along Gilman Springs Road, Scientologists want to put up more buildings and expand the site's capacity from the current 500 employees.

Councilman Jim Potts said he found it appropriate that the City Council should take a position on the concept of closing Gilman Springs Road, even if Scientologists have not made a formal proposal.

Verne Lauritzen, chief of staff to Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone, has reported contacts by Scientologists seeking county cooperation on the issue, Potts said.

In the end, the issue is community desires, he said.

"What does our community want?" he asked. "We're up here to represent the community."

Some members of that community spoke in support of the proposed resolution to oppose closing the road.

Mary Engeldow, manager of the Country Lakes Mobile Home Park at San Jacinto's northern boundary just south of Gilman Springs Road, said she distributed more than 350 surveys to residents of the park and, with only some results in, had opposition to the road closure from 159 residents.

Mayor Dale Stubblefield said rumors of Scientologists' desire to close down Gilman Springs Road were circulating before he was elected to the City Council.

Not only that, but the rumors indicated that the city supported the move, which, he said, is a falsehood.

Alhadeff said no one with the Church of Scientology circulated such rumors.

Opposition also came from John Randall, manger of the U.S. Bank branch at the new shopping center on the northeast corner of the State Street-Ramona Expressway intersection.

Randall said business has been hurt enough by the weak economy and diverting traffic that now passes by the shopping center can only increase the damage.

"It would have a detrimental effect on all businesses in the center," he said.

Even City Manager Barry McClellan got into the discussion to dispute the contention from Scientologists that the road is carrying more traffic than it was designed to accommodate.

"As an engineer, I don't believe that road is over capacity," he told the council. "It will handle a lot more than 15,000 cars a day."

If there is danger along the 45-mile-an-hour road segment, it is from people who speed, he said.

A major part of the argument for examining the potential for closing the road is that it is unsafe because of the volume of traffic.

Ayres said that, if there is likely to be any impact on traffic volume and safety, it would come from closing the road and forcing traffic that now uses Gilman Springs Road onto other thoroughfares, some of which are already crowded.

"I'll never support it," he said.

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