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Carmel Valley Decision Due: Panel Set to Decide if People Will Vote on Incorporation

Monterey Herald, Nov. 24, 2008



By LAITH AGHA
Herald Staff Writer

The big day for Carmel Valley incorporation has arrived. Again.

Eight years after the initial push for — and against — turning the valley into a sovereign town, the Local Agency Formation Commission is set to decide whether the issue will appear on a ballot.

The commission will hold a public hearing Tuesday to rule on whether Carmel Valley residents will be given the opportunity to vote on incorporation.

Kate McKenna, the agency's executive officer, has prepared a report that outlines the town's proposal and recommends that it be allowed to go to a vote. It addresses fiscal viability, town boundaries, public services and other fundamentals of a municipality.

The Carmel Valley Forum was established about 2000 by incorporation proponents to push for the issue to reach the ballot. Michael Stamp, the forum's attorney, said everything is in place for incorporation to be placed in the citizens' hands.

"The major issues have been addressed," said Stamp. "The finances work, the payments to the county work, the process works. It should be up to the voters to decide it."

Before the commission could decide whether to place incorporation on a ballot, a comprehensive fiscal analysis was needed to show whether the Town of Carmel Valley could support itself financially. The two sides also had to agree on a revenue neutrality agreement, which would compensate the county for lost tax revenue for the first 10 years of the town's existence, assuming incorporation were approved by the voters.

The debate has revolved around maintaining the valley's character.

Proponents say local control is more likely to achieve this than continued county governance. They argue that because only one of five county supervisors has constituents in the valley, the Board of Supervisors does not always act in the best interests of valley residents.

Opponents of incorporation have argued that Carmel Valley, which is bigger in area than all the Peninsula cities combined but has less than 12,000 residents, could not support itself financially — without seeking more tax revenue, either through raising taxes or allowing more development to increase the tax base.

About 7,200 registered voters live in Carmel Valley.

The process stalled two years ago when the commission ordered the forum to produce an environmental impact report, which would have cost the nonprofit group more than $300,000. The commission had previously determined that an environmental review was unnecessary.

In May, the forum won a lawsuit against the commission with Superior Court Judge Lydia Villarreal ruling that requiring the environmental report was unjustified. The ruling led to a settlement between the forum and the commission that set a Dec. 1 deadline for a decision on whether to put incorporation proposal to an election.

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



Last Updated: Dec 07, 08

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