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County Agency Approves Incorporation of Carmel Valley -- Election Recommended for Nov. 2009

Carmel Pine Cone, Dec. 5, 2008


AFTER ALMOST a decade of trying, proponents of a Town of Carmel Valley got what they wanted Monday when the Local Agency Formation Commission voted 6-1 to recommend the town be created.

It is now up to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to set a date for an election for residents of the proposed town to decide if they want to incorporate. They will also be asked to elect a five-member town council.

LAFCO recommended the election take place Nov. 3, 2009, with the town officially open for business on July 1, 2010.

There was some last-minute drama Monday, as 3rd District Supervisor Lou Calcagno helped remove Tehama — a 2,000-acre golf club and subdivision co-owned by Clint Eastwood — from the boundaries of the would-be town. More than 25 other neighborhoods and business areas, including the Crossroads, Barnyard and Carmel Rancho shopping centers and several nearby residential communities, also asked to be excluded from the proposed town, but LAFCO turned down those requests.

In contrast to a Nov. 24 public hearing on incorporation — which featured testimony by more than 50 residents — the Dec. 1 hearing offered commissioners a lengthy opportunity to sound off on the issue. Calcagno started things off with a bang by rattling off 20 pages of arguments, which read like a “Greatest Hits” collection of incorporation criticisms. He recited the long list of complaints with a minimum of pauses and often without attribution.

“I’m not comfortable moving this thing forward,” Calcagno said, although he later conceded he was willing to do so, if only to avoid another expensive court battle like the one last summer, which cost taxpayers $240,000 to reimburse attorney Michael Stamp for representing incorporation proponents.

In response, commissioner Vince DiMaggio argued that residents should be allowed to vote on incorporation.

“If I lived in the valley, I would vote no, but I wouldn’t argue against the right to vote,” DiMaggio said.

DiMaggio also took issue with the idea of a business or neighborhood opting out of the incorporation boundaries.

“There simply doesn’t exist the right to opt out of the incorporation process,” he observed.

Can it afford to be a town?

Several commissioners questioned the viability of creating a new town in the midst of a nationwide economic downturn, often referring to a fiscal analysis funded by opponents. Commissioner Don Champion, though, had harsh words for the study, calling its data “questionable at best” and finding “little substance” in its 600 pages.

Commission chair and Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue, meanwhile, cautioned his colleagues to not place too much emphasis on any one fiscal study.

“Nobody’s numbers are right,” he suggested. “They’re all speculative. But folks can come together and be undercapitalized. We do it in Salinas all the time.”

Opponents claim the new town would not be able pay its expenses, but LAFCO executive officer Kate McKenna insisted it can be solvent. She also said her agency simply followed state incorporation law when evaluating the town’s finances.

“Our responsibility is to determine that the new town has the adequate revenues to ensure financial viability in the three fiscal years following incorporation,” McKenna explained.

Contrary to claims by opponents, McKenna said the exclusion of Tehama from the proposal will have little effect on the town’s revenues because few homes will be constructed during the next three years. Meanwhile, proponent Glenn Robinson was critical of the decision to remove Tehama from the proposed town’s boundaries.

“The Carmel Valley Forum will need to decide if it will fight this nonsensical exclusion,” Robinson said. “Eliminating Tehama nearly cuts the town in half. All of the traffic, flooding and other impacts from Tehama will affect Carmel Valley, so it should have remained inside the boundary area.”

What’s next?

Now that LAFCO has approved incorporation, several steps need to occur before residents can vote on it. First, the proposal needs to be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the California State Lands Commission. Then the board of supervisors is required to set an election before voters can ratify it.
According to McKenna, the timeline doesn’t allow for a special election in the spring, so the next opportunity for voters to weigh in on the issue will be in November.

In the meantime, opponents are gearing up for what promises to be a contentious political and legal battle.

“Let the war begin,” announced opponent Bob Sinotte. “I think we should rename the proposed town of Carmel Valley ‘Stampville’ in recognition of the lawyers who tied the hands of the commissioners, most of whom think the proposal is fatally flawed. There are a litany of concerns that suggest the fate of incorporation will be decided in the courts.”

Robinson admitted incorporation supporters face a tough fight ahead.

“Developers will pour lots of money into the campaign to defeat incorporation,” he predicted. “We will be badly outspent — that is for certain. But we have facts and logic on our side, and we will meet in living rooms and patios on every street in Carmel Valley to discuss incorporation. Facts empower people, so I expect incorporation will win.”

For now, though, Robinson can pause for a moment and savor this week’s win.

“This is a historic moment for Carmel Valley,” said Robinson of the LAFCO vote to okay incorporation. “People here have been discussing it for 40 years but it has never gotten to a vote. Finally, our community will get the opportunity to decide for itself the shape of its future.”

Last Updated: Dec 07, 08

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