Danville Express

Newsfront - October 5, 2007

Alamo residents speak out against incorporation

No need for change is general sentiment

by Natalie O'Neill

The saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" summed up the argument old-time Alamo residents used to ignite a formal anti-incorporation movement Thursday night at Alamo Women's Club.

A turnout of more than 30 - the bulk of whom had spent at least 25 years living in Alamo - highlighted a desire to see cityhood efforts squelched. The goal of the meeting was to get input, gather funds, and assign leadership positions.

"I like Alamo just the way it is. We know exactly what we're going to get from the county, we don't know what we're going to get from incorporation," said Tony Carnemolla, who opened the meeting with a speech.

But cityhood supporters say Alamo does need fixing. It takes too long to make road improvements, too much Alamo tax money goes to county administrative fees, and traffic control - now done by the California Highway Patrol - could be better. Alamo planning decisions are also better made by people who live in Alamo, they say.

Still, members of the newly born anti-incorporation movement said there's no point to having local planning control in the form of a city council, when most of the land has already been developed.

"We're 90 percent built out. What are you gonna control? We're landlocked by the park, Walnut Creek and the watershed," said one speaker, Phil Erickson, who added that preventing big houses wasn't enough to make him want to incorporate.

But future development in the form of subdivisions, privately owned land, "monster houses" and tall buildings are highly possible, said Chris Kenber, Alamo Incorporation Movement spokesman, after the meeting. This is what makes a city council necessary, he said.

"Alamo Plaza is privately owned and has a tremendous risk of being redeveloped," he said. "That's a big deal. Do we want Alamo Plaza to look like a strip mall?"

Speakers at the meeting emphasized they were pleased with the area's police, roads and planning, and some advocated a Municipal Advisory Council - as opposed to a town council - that would advise the county Board of Supervisors.

"It's all the local control we need," said longtime resident Bob Myhre.

MACs are appointed by the district supervisor and allow residents to make recommendations on planning decisions in unincorporated areas. While advice from the MACs are considered, supervisors have the final say.

Members of the anti-incorporation movement said they didn't want to see Alamo become "modernized," and said keeping it a "small town" without a big commercial district, is their priority.

And supporters of cityhood say they share the same desire.

Most advocates of incorporation don't want to see Alamo's character change, Kenber said.

"On the contrary, (incorporation) offers the best chance of letting Alamo be Alamo," its Web site notes. "By making all our decisions through a locally elected council, it is the Alamo community that decides how we move forward."

An initial financial feasibility study shows that an incorporated Alamo would receive 35 percent of its revenue from property tax, 19 percent from state vehicle license fees, and 11 percent from sales taxes, along with other smaller income, including franchise fees.

The initial study was done by an independent contractor and indicates property taxes would not need to be raised. The study can be viewed at www.alamoinc.org.

Residents at the meeting said, even with the study, they believe taxes will be raised and the burden will fall on the homeowners.

"We just plain can't afford it," said Virgie Jones, a 59-year resident, who encouraged listeners not to sign a petition that would set forth a second feasibility study, this time by the state Local Agency Formation Commission.

Supporters of incorporation note that if the town can't afford it, then that's what the LAFCO feasibility study will show. Signing the petition is agreeing that the study should be conducted, not necessarily that incorporation should happen.

LAFCO is a state regulatory commission that prevents small districts and non-viable cities from being created. The last Alamo incorporation effort was shot down by LAFCO, before a vote could be taken. Back then, it was a county agency and supporters said there was a conflict of interest with the county. It is now regulated by the state.

If cityhood supporters gather 2,500 signatures, the study will take about one year to conduct. If it is approved, a vote will occur, likely in spring of 2009.

To find out more about anti-incorporation efforts, contact Tony Carnemolla at 984-7006. To find out more about the pro-incorporation movement, visit www.alamoinc.org or call Chris Kenber at 838-2296.


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