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New Group Opposes Valley Incorporation

Carmel Pine Cone, Dec. 6, 2002


SUPPORTERS SAY incorporation would protect the rural ambience of Carmel Valley. But opponents say it would just create a touristy city.

While one group is circulating petitions to get the incorporation drive under way, two dozen residents of neighborhoods near Highway 1 have lined up to form Valley Watch – a political action committee that is trying to stop the cityhood movement in its tracks, according to member Bob Sinotte. Although in its infancy, the group is already busy polling mouth-of-the-valley residents on their opinions of a valley township.

“We believe property owners in Carmel Valley, particular those opposed to incorporation, need a voice,” said Sinotte, a Carmel Views resident and outspoken opponent of incorporation.

The group circulated a flier several weeks ago imploring residents to “Keep Carmel Valley Rural!” and encouraging them not to sign a petition that “could set in motion (forever) the transformation of our rural valley into a tourism-revenue-dependent CITY, the bureaucratic complexity of which we do not need or desire.”

The petition Valley Watch opposes is being circulated by proponents of a “Town of Carmel Valley” who need signatures from 25 percent of the registered voters in Carmel Valley to get the incorporation drive started. The petitioners began collecting signatures in October and have six months to get the job done.

Max Tadlock, a member of the Carmel Valley Forum group circulating the petitions, said the drive is going well, but could not say how many signatures have been gathered.

“The people with the petitions are happy with how things are going and the comments they’re getting,” he said. About 20 people are handling the work.

Month of valley opposed?

But Sinotte suspects residents in the mouth of the valley don’t want to be part of an incorporated Carmel Valley. To find out, his group mailed 1,500 survey cards last month to homeowner’s association members in Carmel Views, Del Mesa Carmel, Hacienda Carmel, Quail Lodge, Rancho Rio Vista, Carmel Knolls and the Rio Road condos.

The cards asked residents whether or not a comprehensive fiscal analysis of incorporation should be conducted.

“We are going to poll the entire Carmel Valley, but the mouth of the valley was our first concern because we sense strong opposition there,” Sinotte said, adding that a survey of area businesses is next.

Sinotte has maintained the new city would heavily rely on tourists’ dollars or require property owners to fork out thousands in new taxes to take care of the roads.

“If the question is whether or not it’s possible to create a City of Carmel Valley, the answer is “yes,” he said. But the real question ought to focus on how much residents are willing to pay to incorporate.

“People will have to start thinking in those terms, because there’s no other way,” Sinotte said. There’s no commercial base, so people on fixed incomes need to realize signing the petition puts in motion a process that could end up costing them big bucks, he added.

If a significant number of residents voice opposition to incorporation, the process could be stopped by the Local Agency Formation Commission, which is responsible for studying and deciding on new cities.

Mixed numbers

But C.V. Forum members have argued that the only way for valley residents to get enough information to make an educated decision on cityhood is to initiate the incorporation process. If the petition drive is successful. LAFCO will conduct studies, hold hearings, accept public comment and decide whether the valley should incorporate. If that ruling is favorable, the final decision would be made by all valley voters at the ballot box.

Before the issue gets that far, “people need to be able to look at the pros and cons,” said C.V. Forum board member Joe Hertlein.

As of now, it’s hard to get straight answers to many of the questions about incorporation. For example, opponents and supporters give widely different estimates of the cost of maintaining Carmel Valley’s 60 miles of roads, six traffic signals, six streetlights, 20 bridges, numerous culverts and drainage facilities, eight flashing beacons and 20 tunnel lights.

Sinotte has said it could cost $200 million; Hertlein countered with a $12 million figure.

Monterey County Public Works Director Lew Bauman said reality lies in between, depending on how much work the would-be town is willing to do.

Routine maintenance – everything from mowing medians to replacing light bulbs and patching storm-related potholes – costs about $300,000 a year. Annual chip sealing to help prevent further deterioration costs about $1.1 million.

Of the 20 bridges in the valley, 13 fail to meet federal safety standards for carrying capacity and fire are not wide enough. Replacing the bridges would cost $10-$15 million, Bauman said.

Estimates hit the $200 million mark when it comes to work the county has no current intention of undertaking, including making all the valley roads meet new standards for width, curvature, sight distance and drainage, according to Bauman, as well as reconstruction. Add to that capacity increases, and the costs rise even more.

A comprehensive financial study commissioned by LAFCO would hammer out specific numbers to determine how much an incorporated Carmel Valley could and would pay for road maintenance and other aspects of self-governance, according to Hertlein.

“The comprehensive fiscal analysis wouldn’t leave any issue unanalyzed,” he said. “Then the people would have a clear choice, and I think that’s one of the beauties of democracy. We may not all agree, but at least people have a choice.”

Last Updated: Dec 07, 08

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