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West Ranch council remains on the fence

Town council’s position could change if city takes stand before Nov. 3 vote

Posted: October 7, 2009 10:42 p.m.
Updated: October 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

The West Ranch Town Council steered clear of taking a position Wednesday night on governance for the westside unincorporated communities. The board did leave the door open to taking a public stance at a later date if the city of Santa Clarita takes a position before the Nov. 3 vote.

"We've had numbers of residents ask the West Ranch Town Council to take a position on the governance vote," said Ron Mechsner, Town Council President, speaking at Wednesday's town council meeting. "When we started this process in January of 2007 we said we weren't going to take a position."

Mechsner told the board members he wanted to stay true to the earlier commitment and provide information on the process without taking a position on what type of government should run the westside unincorporated communities of West Ridge, Stevenson Ranch, Sunset Pointe, Castaic, Val Verde and Tesoro.

On Nov. 3, voters can cast a non-binding advisory vote to remain in the county unincorporated areas, form their own separate city or join the city of Santa Clarita.

Don Whaley, member of the Stevenson's Ranch Homeowner's Association, asked the board to step in and take a position on the process to help members of the community make a decision and not leave the decision up to a government body to decide at a later time.

"(Residents) come to us and ask what this is about," Whaley said about the mail-in ballots that recently began arriving at homes. "They don't want to read the report. They want someone to tell them what they should do."

West Ranch Town Council member Brian Toqe echoed Whaley's sentiments that people in the communities on the westside are looking for guidance.

"I do sympathize with people who want the Cliffs Notes version," he said. "The thing with the report was it provided a lot of data. I didn't recall it making any recommendations."

Dave Bossert, West Ranch Town Council member, said the reports were never designed to recommend one option over another.
"They were designed to inform people," he said.

Whaley said the town council needs to step in and take a stand before the city of Santa Clarita takes a position on the process and influences the voters.

The city of Santa Clarita and Los Angeles County have not taken a position on the governance debate. The city paid for the study on annexation of the westside, while the county funded the fiscal study on forming a new city.

The Castaic Area Town Council has not taken a position on the governance question.

The West Ranch Town Council unanimously approved a motion to remain silent for now, but left an option to take a stance later if any government agency takes a position. The town council, which is not scheduled to meet again until after the Nov. 3 vote, would vote on its position by e-mail. The e-mail vote would have to be unanimous, Mechsner said.

While the town council didn't take a position Wednesday night, issues related to governance were raised.

"The only thing people are concerned with on both sides of (Interstate 5) is that we end up with two cities like Palmdale and Lancaster," said Don Fleming, West Ranch Town Council member.

Fleming said residents are worried that two cities in the Santa Clarita Valley would compete for retail space and resources, setting up a rivalry similar to Palmdale and Lancaster.

Bossert said comparing Santa Clarita and any new city in the SCV to Palmdale and Lancaster is not a fair comparison.

"Palmdale and Lancaster are two scrappy dogs fighting in a sand lot," he said.

The better comparison would be Pasadena and Glendale or Glendale and Burbank, where the cities work together on economic development.

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