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Last forum fills gaps on Westside decision

Representatives discuss options facing voters in 25 days

Posted: October 8, 2009 9:48 p.m.
Updated: October 9, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Los Angeles Local Agency Formation Commission Executive Director Sandor Winger describes the process of annexation as he sits on the panel at the Westside Decision 2009 public forum held at City Hall on Thursday.

On Thursday, Santa Clarita Valley residents were fed the last dose of information on westside governance before the westside unincorporated communities vote on the issue Nov. 3.

About 50 people showed up to Santa Clarita City Hall to hear a panel discussion by representatives of the Los Angeles Local Agency Formation Commission, the Tesoro Del Valle Homeowner's Association, the Castaic Area and West Ranch town councils and the consultants who prepared two studies on governance discuss the options facing voters in 25 days.

On Nov. 3, residents of the westside communities of Tesoro, Stevenson Ranch, West Ridge, Castaic, Val Verde and Sunset Pointe will be asked to cast a non-binding advisory vote on whether to form their own city, join the city of Santa Clarita or remain in an unincorporated area in Los Angeles County.

Representatives from the West Ranch Beacon Web site, The Signal and KHTS Radio fired questions at the panel.

"The community had an opportunity to present their specific questions and we were able to give them answers," said Steve Teeman, Castaic Area Town Council member and panel member.

Nearly one third of Thursday's meeting was swallowed up by Sandor Winger, Local Agency Formation Commission executive director, who sat on the panel. Winger gave a detailed account of what it takes to turn an unincorporated area into a city.

"The cost of a consultant, which is usually between $100,000 and $150,000, must be borne by the applicant," he said.

In short, if residents want to form a new city on the westside they must bear the cost of conducting a fiscal study of their area, Winger said. The residents interested in forming a new city would also have to bear the cost of environmental reviews and legal costs.

Los Angeles County has already paid for an initial fiscal analysis of the westside unincorporated area, but Winger said a new comprehensive study would be necessary to form a new city.

"Please don't mix up the words comprehensive fiscal analysis with initial fiscal analysis," he said. "The initial fiscal analysis does not have to be as detailed as what LAFCO has to do."

Residents asked what advantages would come from forming their own city or joining the city of Santa Clarita.

"The primary advantage of incorporation, I believe, is control over local governance," said Richard Berkson, who prepared the initial fiscal analysis on incorporation and also sat on the panel Thursday.

The new city would bring government closer to the people of the westside communities and they would get a prominent voice in land use, he added.

Beverly Burr, who prepared a study on the fiscal impact on the city annexing the westside, answered a question on the advantages of being annexed.

"There would be no sales tax competition," Burr said.

Neighboring cities often compete for sale tax revenues.

"Some economists argue it leads to a race to the bottom," she said.

Burr said annexing, like incorporation, would bring government closer to the people of the SCV.


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