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8:15 PM Tue, Oct. 23rd

City takes a pass on Williamson Valley incorporation issue

PRESCOTT - Facing a comparison to a "banana republic" on one side, and pleas to "just say no" from the other, Prescott opted for the middle ground this week in the debate raging over incorporation of Williamson Valley.

By a 6-1 vote Tuesday, the council chose to take no stand on whether the neighborhood north of Prescott should form its own municipality.

Most of the council members expressed reservations about putting the city in the center of what they termed a neighborhood issue for the 5,000 or so residents who would be a part of the new town.

"I respect the sanctity of home rule and self-determination," Councilman Jim Lamerson said, before making a motion that the city should take no stand on the matter.

Councilwoman Mary Ann Suttles also came out strongly against a vote either for or against the incorporation.

"To me, that's not our business," Suttles said. "For my own, I would try to get us out of this and let the citizens of Williamson Valley handle it."

But others maintained that by not taking a stand, the city was, in effect, siding against the incorporation.

Indeed, City Attorney Gary Kidd said the council's vote "is technically a 'no' vote" - triggering the same results as a vote against the incorporation.

And Councilman Robert Luzius - the only member to vote against the motion for no position - urged the council not to "stand in the way of those folks to do what they are inclined to do."

Under consideration was a resolution of support for the incorporation of about 38 square miles of Williamson Valley-area land. State law required the matter to go before the Prescott Council because the incorporation area is within six miles of its city limits.

Before casting their votes, the council heard from residents on both sides.

Incorporation supporter Ken Mino, for instance, suggested that the council was "being urged to deny a group of citizens the right to vote," and he likened such a move to a "banana republic."

But Mayor Jack Wilson took exception to that comparison, pointing out that the incorporation advocates have other options to get the matter on the ballot.

Under state law, city officials say, incorporation advocates can still move forward without Prescott's support by first applying to the city for annexation into its boundaries.

If, after 120 days, the city does not approve the annexation, the incorporation can move forward - but with signatures from 20 percent of the affected residents, rather than the 10 percent that would be necessary if the effort had the support of neighboring communities.

That prompted Mino to point out that Prescott's decision not to take a position would be making the incorporation effort more difficult.

But others urged the City Council to stay out of the debate.

"I do not think this is a mountain that you folks want to die on," said Williamson Valley resident Jim Sigman. "I encourage you to either vote 'no' or take a pass."

And, calling the incorporation effort "ridiculous," Williamson Valley resident Tommy Meredith maintained that regardless of whether the city supports the effort, "It's going to get turned down (by Williamson Valley voters)."

Georgene Lockwood, chairman of the Town of Williamson Valley Incorporation Committee, said the group plans to move forward regardless of the council's decision.

"We will take the additional 120 days, and we will get the 20 percent," Lockwood said.

Earlier, Lockwood said the incorporation committee hoped to get the issue on the ballot by either the August 2010 primary or the November 2010 general election.