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AG mayor can't vote on Brisco Road project, FPPC says 

click to enlarge NO VOTE After seeking the advice from the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill will recuse himself from future votes on the Brisco Road interchange project. - FILE PHOTO BY CHRIS MCGUINNESS
  • File Photo By Chris Mcguinness
  • NO VOTE After seeking the advice from the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill will recuse himself from future votes on the Brisco Road interchange project.

As the Arroyo Grande City Council gets closer to finally choosing just how to move forward with a multi-million dollar highway interchange project, they'll have to make their decision without Mayor Jim Hill.

In a June 19 letter, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) said Hill needed to recuse himself from voting on the city's planned project for Highway 101's Brisco Road interchange because he lives too close to the location. Hill said he asked the FPPC to review the situation and make a ruling, which he plans to honor.

"I'll be recusing myself from any future votes on Brisco," Hill said.

The Brisco Road interchange project dates back to the 1990s, when the city began looking for ways to address traffic and safety concerns with the on-ramps and off-ramps at Brisco Road. After years of wrangling with the California Department of Transportation, the council is getting closer to choosing between three different options to address the interchange, which could cost between $14 million and $23 million, according to initial estimates.

According to the commission's letter, Hill lives approximately 2,600 feet from the current Brisco Road on- and off-ramps, and close to the sites where the ramps might be relocated under two of the project's three options. According to state regulations, a decision that involves construction or improvements to streets surrounding an elected official's real property that result in a disproportionate benefit or detriment to that official would be a conflict of interest. According to the letter, options to relocate the ramps would result in Hill benefiting from reduced traffic or experiencing the detrimental impacts of more congested traffic near his home.

"The [regulation] prohibits you from taking part in those decisions because they would have a reasonably foreseeable material financial effect on your real property interest in your residence," the letter stated.

The FPPC's response comes after Hill has previously voted and discussed the Brisco Road project. That incudes a November 2016 vote against reopening the Brisco Road ramps after they were closed for more than a year for a traffic study. Former City Councilmember Jim Guthrie told New Times that he'd previously suggested that Hill seek the FPPC's advice on the matter.

"For a while he's been told he should get this checked out," Guthrie said.

Hill said that his previous votes on the project were for "temporary" measures such as closing the ramps rather than more permanent modifications to interchange.

"Permanent decisions are going to be happening in the relatively near term, the next few months, and I wanted to make sure I had the opinion in time for that," Hill said.

When the time comes to vote on that permanent fix, Hill expressed confidence that the other members of the council were up to the task.

"I'm only one resident and many people in the community have different opinions on Brisco, and the council will take those under advisement." He said.

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