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And Now, the Rest of the Story... on Carmel Valley Incorporation

The Carmel Voice, May 2005

By Sam Salerno

Last month, the CARMEL VOICE, through writer Dodie Barkley, gave the proponents of Carmel Valley Incorporation the voice they need to sell their product. But there are many, both at the mouth of the Valley, and in the Valley proper, who have a different opinion.

Glen E. Robertson, president of the Carmel Valley Association gives a convincing point in a letter to the editor in a local paper, but that’s his job…he spearheading the group to make Carmel Valley a city and if you were in his position, you’d be shouting the same verbiage from the hilltops. One must admit that Glenn is glib and well versed.

I attended a meeting with a group who has a different vision for our area. My sentiments, having once owned a home in Carmel Knolls is, “If it ain’t broken, why fix it?”

In last month’s article, former Fourth District Supervisor Karin Strasser Kauffman, also expressed her view and she too is for incorporation.

Here are some important issues from those against who would like voters to know. In a city, roads have to be improved. Lew C. Bauman, who should know since he is with the Public Works Department of Monterey County, says Carmel Valley roads will need to be rehabilitated and reengineered... Do the proponents have the money? It’s likely also that a new sewer system would have to be built. Why? As it stands now, Carmel Valley residents use septic tanks (not in the Knolls). Should a new system be employed, the new city would probably have to follow federal and state environmental laws… to improve underground water quality. The new sewer system would span many miles and be very, very expensive and cause havoc to the environment because of its scope.

The “new” city would probably be forced to float a large bond measure in order to pay additional costs, which would be added to property tax bills. If taxes aren’t raised (perhaps due to complaints by irate citizens) the city would be forced to close down certain services.

Another aspect of incorporation: Highly paid staff City workers, a city manager, a city attorney. Also, most cities have generous retirement packages up to 90% of the city employee’s salary. In Salinas, for instance, the parks and recreation director receives a salary of more than $160,000 a year. Carmel Valley residences and businesses would pay these high salaries.

The there’s the problem of population density: If I’m not mistaken, Carmel Valley is about 45 square miles and a comparative city, Thousand Oaks was used as a guideline to show the population density and how it affected them. Since their incorporation, Thousand Oaks has increase was incorporated in 1964 with a population (then) at 19,200. Now, 41 years later, there are 125,000 residents. Population density: 2,232 people per square mile, 840% denser than Carmel Valley.

Carmel Valley’s growth rate since 1985, between 6% to 8%, 11,000 --- now 11,700. Population density: 266 people per square mile. This is what those against incorporation call a controlled, modest growth rate. The envy of all California cities, they say!

Mel Steckler, President of the Carmel Knolls Property Owners Association say’s “given its size, topography and population diversities, there is little about Carmel Valley to suggest that it has the characteristics normal to a city. That characterization exists only in the minds of the proponents, augmented by fiscal analysis of a “bare bones” city that meets the minimal requirements of an incorporation proposal. Imposing a municipal structure of this 44-square mile rural area has the single goal of gaining sole control over all land use decisions affecting the Valley.”

“The creation of a city is secondary to that objective! The city they propose is a one-dimensional venture posing as a comprehensive ‘virtual’ city with respect to all other municipal functions. The outcomes of this are beyond prediction by anyone, except for the inherent tendency of cities to grow and complicate in response to state and local demands for municipal services of many kinds. Where is the money for this going to come from, and what economic, social environmental effect will it have on the valley?” These matters are still under formal study by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) and may well prove to be pivotal issues on which final decisions rest. LAFCO has scheduled public hearings in the coming months regarding these and related matters.

Robert Sinotte, President of the Carmel Views Community Association asks, “Why are Carmel Valley property owners so strongly opposed to incorporation? One underlying concern stands out: they believe their way of life, a life style and innocence that long ago disappeared in neighboring cities, is about to be gambled away. Carmel Valley is one of the larges sparely populated landmasses in Monterey County” writes Bob. “In the last twenty years, Carmel Valley has experienced a controlled and modest rate of approximately 8%. Our low density and rural life-style is the envy of most California cities. Why tinker with something that isn’t broken? Our property taxes could only fund a city for a few months. Do we want to create a city driven and fueled by tourist-revenues?” Bob continues: “Do we want to promote our community as a resort-destination city, as all other tourist-dependent cities are doing? And do we understand all the unintended consequences that would come with cityhood, including increase tourist and city traffic, extensive workforce housing demands, state-mandated infrastructure requirements and non-stop political bickering and vilifying… forever? As the year evolves, these concerns and many, many more will define the debate!”

Some think that even Mission Fields would be affected by incorporation of Carmel Valley because of the flood control system. We understand that in a recent vote that Carmel Views, Carmel Knolls and Hacienda Carmel are opposed to the plan.

We could expand this article in perpetuity with more nays regarding incorporation for Carmel Valley but the basic theme and potential danger say the opponents would be the social altering of Carmel Valley. Again, the voters will have to make the decision. We trust you will glean something from Dodie’s article last month and our interpretation this month. Your letters and comments are welcomed.

Last Updated: Dec 07, 08

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