San Martin’s independence may get boost with bill

Gilroy
– A bill that will be introduced in the state legislature
Tuesday may give a push to San Martin’s idling incorporation
plans.
Authored by Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), the bill
would restore tax revenues that a recent ballot measure took away
from newly incorporated towns.
Gilroy – A bill that will be introduced in the state legislature Tuesday may give a push to San Martin’s idling incorporation plans.

Authored by Assemblyman John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), the bill would restore tax revenues that a recent ballot measure took away from newly incorporated towns.

Passed last November, Proposition 1A protects cities and counties from having tax revenue taken by the state through a complicated process whereby schools hand over property tax revenue to their municipalities and are reimbursed by the state. Proposition 1A did not, however, include language dealing with new towns, leaving areas like San Martin without the money it needs to operate independently of the county.

Without those fees San Martin will not be able form a new town, said Sylvia Hamilton, president of the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance.

“At this point no community in California could incorporate,” Hamilton said. “We need moneys to support incorporation.”

San Martin’s annual share of vehicle registration fees would be about $450,000. Without that revenue, its residents can not raise the approximately $2.3 million it would need each year to support city services. Laird’s bill would restore San Martin’s access to that revenue by creating a new allocation of vehicle licensing fees for newly incorporated areas. Clyde Macdonald, an aide to Laird, said Friday that it’s too soon to tell if San Martin would get its entire $450,000 under the new scheme.

To help their cause, the SMNA recently hired a lobbyist who is representing a handful of California communities trying to incorporate, including El Dorado and Carmel Valley. The alliance is paying the lobbyist $300 a month, less than half of what the other, large communities are paying.

“I don’t think any of us ever though we’d we paying a lobbyist, but we need to come up with a workable bill with new incomes to backfill the money we’re losing for vehicle licensing fees,” Hamilton said.

 Connie Ludewig, a member of the SMNA board, said Thursday that locals want to incorporate to protect San Martin’s rural environment and give residents a stronger voice in development projects.

In recent years, she said, the county has allowed anachronistic businesses like a brick factory and tried to install a fish distribution facility. Last November, the county approved a major expansion of the San Martin airport against the wishes of the SMNA’s 500 members.

“It seems like were always chasing the county to stop things they’ve already approved,” Ludewig said. “So many people have moved to San Martin because it’s a quiet, rural environment to raise families. Our vision is to have a charming community for people to live in and visit.”

Hamilton said the she understands the county’s resistance to accede to San Martin’s wishes because its 5,600 residents make up only three percent of the county’s population and doing so would affect the way it deals with the county’s other incorporated areas.

“For all practical purposes this is already a town and has been for years,” Hamilton said. “We have very strict boundaries with Morgan Hill to the north and Gilroy to the south. People here identify as San Martinians.”

Supervisor Don Gage agreed Friday that incorporation is the best way to resolve disputes between San Martin and county officials.

“I would like to see them incorporate because most of my problems there are that folks don’t like the way the county is dealing with their land use issues,” Gage said. “If cities are able to deal with land use internally that’s what should be done in San Martin. It’s better for them to incorporate.”

In addition to representing San Martin on the board of supervisors, Gage is also a member of the Local Agency Formation Commission, which would oversee the boundaries and initial development of the new town of San Martin.

The SMNA was formed in 2000. After considering alternatives such as annexing themselves to Morgan Hill or Gilroy, forming a special district and informal governing methods, the alliance settled on complete incorporation.

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