The North Shore question returns: To incorporate, or not? | SierraSun.com
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The North Shore question returns: To incorporate, or not?

Ryan Slabaugh
Sierra Sun

TAHOE CITY ” When Randy Hill introduced his idea to investigate incorporation of North Shore’s hamlets, villages and towns in front of dozens of area leaders Tuesday morning, he got a few snickers.

Whether it was out of skepticism, or whether it was because the idea had been investigated a number of times since 1980, it did not deter Hill from defending his position.

“Whether we like them or not, if we incorporated, we would have local people making local decisions,” Hill said. He told the crowd at the Granlibakken that a local town council representing the North Shore would better spend tax dollars and give residents a better way to protest decisions with which they disagree.

At root of the discussion is a historical mistrust between Placer County’s government, based in Auburn, and residents on the North Shore an hour away. Part of the trust issue stems from a 1996 decision adopted by the North Shore to tax themselves for more North Shore services, when the county decided the money should go other directions than the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association. After that decision, many feared the tax dollars were heading to Auburn, instead of building sidewalks in Tahoe City.

Jennifer Merchant, who works for Placer County, was an area leader in 1989 the last time the question was assessed.

“I think people in 1989, and even in 1995 (1993) when Truckee incorporated, thought it would happen then,” Merchant said. “It was a combination of economic and political reasons that it didn’t.”

For Hill, the idea to investigate incorporation makes sense. The next step, he said, would be to find 10 “grassroots” residents interested in privately raising the money for a new feasibility assessment, which he estimated would cost $30,000. If that were to fly, then a larger-scale assessment costing $100,000 to $150,000 would set the stage for an actual campaign reaching for voter approval.

But he wants to be clear: For now, he’s not advocating incorporation. He’s advocating investigation. And that’s music to the ears of someone like Cindy Gustafson, the general manager for the Tahoe City Public Utility District, who also disapproved of the way Placer County communicates to the eastern, more rural region.

“No matter how good an argument we have, there’s a powerful force out there against this change,” she said. “We need to help protect our locals, and make sure (Placer County) represents our needs and wants.”

The idea did not just come to Hill yesterday. The North Shore resident, who moved to the area in 2000, said he’s spent the last eight months speaking with 75 area residents. Only three, he said, were against the idea.

“They were overwhelmingly positive about the idea of incorporation,” he said. He described the range of response as being between “apoplectic disdain” to “thoughtful conjecture.”

Large details like town boundaries and what services it would provide are unable to be answered at this time without the financial assessment, Hill said, but they are the same questions that interrupted previous incorporation movements.

One other question was not lost on the audience.

“What would we call this town?” someone asked.

Randy was prepared for that one.

“We’d call it, ‘Randy Hill,'” he quipped. Everyone in the room laughed. But both he, and many others, made it clear throughout that the question is far more serious.

“We should not pursue this just because we’re upset with Placer County,” Hill said. “If we did that, it would fail. We should do it because it would make our area a better place.”

From his report: “As with most communities who have pursued the idea of incorporation, there are common threads in support of the notion: control over land use and planning; retention and control of revenue otherwise held and manipulated by the unseen puppeteer, and perhaps most compelling, control over one’s own destiny.”

Read the full report by downloading the PDF attached to this article.


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