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Carmel Valley town battle tight

Monterey Herald -- Nov. 4, 2009



Carmel Valley: Early numbers show 137-vote spread on incorporation
By LAITH AGHA
Herald Staff Writer
Updated: 11/04/2009 06:44:22 AM PST


The vote on Carmel Valley incorporation was too close to call late Tuesday.

As of 10:50 p.m., with only the initial count of absentee votes recorded by Monterey County election officials, voters in Carmel Valley appeared to be rejecting the incorporation proposal with Measure G — but only by 137 votes. None of the votes cast at the four precincts in Carmel Valley had been counted by the elections office by late Tuesday.

The late results tacks at least several more hours to the decade-long debate of whether Carmel Valley should incorporate to prevent overdevelopment or if the rural community is better off remaining under county governance.

About 60 incorporation opponents optimistically awaited the results at a party in Los Laureles Lodge late Tuesday.

"I wouldn't say (we're) euphoric, but we're hopeful," said Bob Sinotte, chairman of the anti-incorporation campaign, aware that his side had a slight lead after the initial count.

A crowd of incorporation proponents gathered at Holas restaurant in the Barnyard Shopping Village, where they were hoping that later counts would swing the results in their favor. Town council candidate Larry Bacon said proponents were "a little discouraged" by the initial count, but the fight was far from over.

"The percentages don't look good, but it's not a big numerical difference," Bacon said. "We're going to have wait and see."

Early returns for the five town council positions showed the pro-town slate of Bacon, Karin Strasser Kauffman, Amy Anderson, Glenn Robinson and Priscilla Walton leading to run the town — if incorporation passes.

The incorporation movement first generated in 2000, when some Carmel Valley residents perceived a threat of overdevelopment looming in their community and decided to investigate whether the valley would be better off under self-governance, rather than have the county Board of Supervisors continue making land-use decisions.

The incorporation pursuit became official in 2003 when the Carmel Valley Forum, a residents group formed to pursue townhood, filed an application with the county to incorporate. The next six years were filled with fierce debate between those for and against townhood, impassioned public participation at county meetings, and a slew of accusations directed at both sides and at county officials.

Opponents have argued that an incorporated Carmel Valley will struggle financially, which would lead to increased taxation of residents and businesses to cover debts, and perhaps even open the door for more development to generate a healthy tax base.

Proponents have insisted that the valley, which is one of the most affluent areas in the county, would be a fiscally viable town. As evidence, they point to the findings of an independent fiscal analysis and relatively stable real estate values during the nation's worst economic period since the Great Depression.

The pro-town campaign had a huge funding advantage, raising more than $220,000 compared to the opposition's $30,000.

Regardless of how the results turn out, Sinotte said valley residents have some mending to do.

"We have to come together and rebuild the goodwill and friendships we had before this incorporation thing started, one way or another, if we win or lose," Sinotte said. "This has been too divisive."

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




Last Updated: Nov 04, 09

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