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Templeton explores what it takes to become a city 

The seats were filled at the Templeton Community Services District meeting on Feb. 4, when the unincorporated area learned about what it would take to become a city.

click to enlarge LOCAL CONTROL Templeton will consider transitioning from a town to a city, but its sales and transient occupancy taxes may not be enough to make the switch. - IMAGE COURTESY OF TEMPLETON COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT
  • Image Courtesy Of Templeton Community Services District
  • LOCAL CONTROL Templeton will consider transitioning from a town to a city, but its sales and transient occupancy taxes may not be enough to make the switch.

District board president Geoff English said they called the community meeting because residents and board members had recently expressed wanting "greater control in our town" and "greater control over protecting and preserving our town."

According to the staff report, cities have general local control—meaning, decisions typically made by a county can be made by a locally elected city council. Cities have land-use authority, can establish general plans, set zoning, and have the authority to approve or condition development projects. Cities also have the responsibility of maintaining roads, setting funding levels for local law enforcement, engaging in economic development activities to enhance revenue for governmental services, and to provide jobs. Typically, cities also get involved with social matters such as homelessness, affordable housing, and environmental causes.

David Church, executive director of the San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), said the incorporation process is estimated to take a minimum of three years.

"The time can depend on complexity and controversy," Church said.

It takes time for community members to wrap their arms around the concept, any proposed idea of change, and education on the incorporation process, he said.

That process involves creating a community supported and led group that advises, oversees, and fundraises for it. LAFCO would consult with the district throughout the process of preparing an application for the agency, exploring boundary alternatives to the district's existing boundary lines, undergoing an environmental review and other studies, and the creation of a comprehensive fiscal analysis. A fiscal analysis lays out the current and potential revenue, expenses, and feasibility of incorporation—the document is created and funded by LAFCO.

"My guess for Templeton is you don't have enough sales tax and you don't have quite enough TOT [transit occupancy tax]. Right now when cities are being incorporated, they have big-box stores or they have car sales, they have big sales tax generators," Church said.

A key component of incorporation is revenue neutrality—the revenues and expenditures of transferring the territory from the county to the city without "fiscally harming" the county's general fund. It's arguably, he said, the most challenging part of the process.

After developing the incorporation proposal and submitting it to LAFCO for review and approval, the proposal has to be put on the ballot for voter approval.

The LAFCO application fee alone is a $15,000 deposit, plus fees for an environmental review. Church said the cost could be anywhere between $50,000 and $200,000.

Church said there have been 12 successful incorporations throughout the state since 1995. In addition, four incorporations were approved by local LAFCOs, but failed at the ballot, and two incorporation efforts were unable to complete the LAFCO process. Δ

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