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The battle over Carmel Valley incorporation continues

Town Criers

Monterey County Weekly -- July 30, 2009
By Jessica Lyons

Lawrence Samuels is running for a seat on the Carmel Valley Town Council. But he doesn’t want the job, and he doesn’t believe Carmel Valley should be a town.

On Nov. 3, residents will vote on incorporation. On the same ballot, they’ll also be asked to elect five leaders to sit on the Town Council, and they’ll vote on whether members of the council – in future elections – shall be chosen by district rather than at-large.

Of course, the latter two measures are moot if the majority of Carmel Valley voters say no to forming their own town. And that’s what Samuels, chair of the Monterey County Libertarian Party, wants them to do. He says incorporation will ruin the valley’s rural nature.

“The other side truly believes this [incorporation] is going to make Carmel Valley more quaint, but they don’t realize once they’re gone, and the city doesn’t have enough money, they are going to build hotels, give land away to developers, build big resorts.”

If there is a new town, and he’s elected to sit on the council?

“Maybe I’ll resign,” he says. “I don’t know. I don’t want to be a politician.”

Samuels is part of a group of candidates running on an anti-incorporation slate – “don’t vote for me, don’t vote for the city,” he says – along with local actor Savva Vassiliev and KRXA radio host Scott Dick.

“We’re against incorporation for various reasons,” Dick says, adding that the proposed town’s two part-time public works employees won’t be able to provide sufficient city services. “We’ve chosen to live in Carmel Valley because we want to be left alone by the county. If we incorporate, we’ll turn into small-town politics, we’ll turn into P.G. We’ll have all the backfighting and finger-pointing and lawsuits that small towns have – except we’re not a small town. We’re a huge town with a small population.”

Five candidates make up the pro-incorporation slate: former County Supervisor Karin Strasser Kaufman, Naval Postgraduate School professor Glenn Robinson, biologist and Chamber Music Monterey Bay President Amy Anderson, investment firm Bacon & Company President Larry Bacon, and former teacher and Davis planning commissioner Priscilla Walton.

“Carmel Valley has outgrown the county,” Strasser Kaufman says. “People here do expect city services and quick response times. Counties are set up to be arms of the states, not provide services for densely populated areas. Carmel Valley is the only densely populated area that has not moved to safeguard its tax base and take local control of its land use. Both are really critical at this time when the state and counties aren’t very viable.”

It’s about land use and local control, echoes Robinson, who sat on the county’s Carmel Valley Land Use Advisory Committee. “Frankly, the county’s land-use planning in Carmel Valley is broke. We’ve seen two approvals of September Ranch, and Rancho Cañada – the dynamics of the county are to approve these.”

He says opponents who fear future hotels and mega developments in a Town of Camel Valley “are living in fantasy land. I have every confidence that the people of Carmel Valley will continually elect a Town Council that seeks to preserve what is so wonderful about this place.

“Even if a Town Council 15 years from now approves some development I didn’t like, well, at least it would be the people of Carmel Valley making that decision.”

Last Updated: Jul 30, 09

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