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Carmel Valley incorporation going to ballot

Carmel Valley: Supervisors approve Nov. 3 ballot



By LAITH AGHA
Herald Staff Writer
Updated: 06/24/2009 01:29:31 AM PDT


After nine years of trying to put it to a vote, proponents of Carmel Valley incorporation have a little more than five months to convince Carmel Valley residents that becoming a town is a good idea.

The county Board of Supervisors approved the matter Tuesday for the Nov. 3 ballot at the request of the Local Agency Formation Commission, the government body that oversaw planning for the proposed town.

The decision was considered to be little more than a formality because the supervisors were obligated to approve it for an election after the commission requested the action.

Now that votes are at stake, proponents and opponents can begin campaigning.

Proponents say they want local policy control rather than allowing the county board to make crucial decisions regarding their community. Opponents say another layer of government is financial suicide for Carmel Valley.

The supervisors' decision was witnessed by about 15 enthusiastic supporters of the incorporation movement. But Carmel Valley will not break off from the county without a majority vote from the 7,000 registered voters who live within the proposed town's borders.

Where residents stand

Karin Strasser-Kaufman said proponents have not been able to gauge where most Carmel Valley residents stand on the issue because their efforts have gone into getting the issue on a ballot.
"We haven't been able to have the dialogue," she said.

But proponents now can begin discussing the matter with residents, exploring "what we like, what we don't like," such as the proposed town's fiscal plan and views on development, she said.

Opponent Frank Lunding said an anti-incorporation campaign hasn't yet been launched.

"Any time I've talked to (any opponent) about it, it would be, 'Let's see what happens,'" Lunding said.
In addition to deciding whether to incorporate, Carmel Valley residents will vote for a mayor and town council members, as well as whether they want future elections for council members to be at-large or by districts. The measures would only take effect if incorporation passes.

None of the incorporation proponents at the supervisors meeting — including Strasser-Kaufman, Glenn Robinson and Larry Bacon — said whether they are considering a run for mayor or town council.

Targeting growth

Preventing — or at least severely curbing — future development in the valley, such as the proposed Rancho Cañada 300-home project, is a prime motive for those pushing incorporation.

"For those of us who have put up with overbuilding in the valley for too long, we just don't want to see this type of building in the valley," said resident Bill Kegley.

Proponents said Tuesday that one of their primary campaigning missions is to counter claims that taxes will go up because the proposed town cannot survive financially.

Opponents say a tax increase is inevitable for a community of less than 12,000 in an area of more than 40 square miles, and that proponents' claims of looming overdevelopment are overblown.

"My primary direction in this has been to make the facts available," said Lunding, an ardent opponent who recently filed two lawsuits regarding the incorporation process. "The voters ought to know before they cast a vote whether the city is going to be bankrupt and what the city is going to be financially responsible for."

Suits against incorporation

The push for a vote on incorporation, which began in 2000, has hit several snags, including lawsuits filed by incorporation opponents and decisions by LAFCO that at times appeared to derail the effort.

One of the suits filed by Lunding was against the Board of Supervisors. It was settled earlier this month when the supervisors agreed to a public hearing on the proposed town's financial viability. A date for the hearing has not been set.

The other suit is against LAFCO, claiming that the California Environmental Quality Act requires an environmental impact report for the formation of a new municipality. It is scheduled for an Aug. 6 court hearing.

LAFCO has gone back and forth on whether an environmental document is needed. When it ruled that an EIR was required, proponents of incorporation filed suit. A judge ruled last summer that such a document was not necessary.

Laith Agha can be reached at 646-4358 or lagha@montereyherald.com.



Last Updated: Jul 13, 09

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