‘Let’s call it a town’ (November 14, 2013)

Editor’s note: This article was originally prepared in celebration of the Town of Apple Valley’s 20th anniversary of incorporation.

We were well into the process before we decided to change the proposed title from city to town, but more on that later.

Like most events involving Apple Valley, we have to turn to the days of Newt Bass and Bud Westlund. It was said that Bass climbed to the top of Pioneer Mountain — better known later as the Hilltop house, the rocky hill above the Apple Valley Inn — and said, This is where I want to build a town. Mike Tex Meeken, the corporate broker for Ranchos once asked why Bass wanted to build a city out in the middle of nowhere. Bass said, I had the vision to see, the faith to believe, and the courage to do it.

Combining this reasoning along with an increased awareness of a growing interest in the forming of new cities in the Inland Empire, the timing seemed right to begin the feasibility of completing Newt’s dream. A long time friend of the Victor Valley, Larry Chimbole, spoke at an Apple Valley Chamber meeting on incorporation, and told the members that you have to ask yourselves whether you are getting the greatest possible benefit from the taxes you’re already paying. If you aren’t, then you should incorporate. This touched on a sore point in the minds of those present — there was little law enforcement in the unincorporated areas and the roads were becoming worse by the day.

By coincidence, I had contacted a nearby city manager who was familiar with the city-forming process. He advised me to contact for the League of California Cities and the Local Agency Formation Commission. At the time, I was looking for a more challenging type of class project for a graduate course I was going to teach for Golden Gate University in its off-campus program. Both the need and the means seemed to come together as the way to explore the feasibility of incorporation for Apple Valley. As it turned out, Jim Roddy, the executive officer of LAFCO provided me with the basic guidance to begin the task in accordance with state law.

On April 8, 1983, I presented an overview to the Apple Valley Chamber on what needed to be done to complete the class project and how it could be applied for use in determining cityhood feasibility. On July 21, 1983, we completed a draft of the study. It showed that the feasibility of incorporation was an attainable possibility. The eight project participants and I then took our preliminary results to Jim Roddy for critique and comments. They were soon forthcoming, but best of all, he assured us we were on the right track for success. This was later confirmed in that the updated version of this draft became the basis for developing the framework for the formal feasibility study which was begun in March 1986.

The hard part

We were now ready to begin the hard part: Selling our proposed vision and plan.

We started with meetings in the Community Center and anywhere else we could gather to share our vision, plans and ideas. At an early point in the process, Gerda Feldmann, the matriarch of the Mojave County formation effort, gave us our first $20 to help (and to remind us that this effort would take a lot of money to be successful and we needed to get the process started now). It was during this period that we formed the various committees to address all the many areas that had to be covered to bring cityhood to our community. We were especially careful to have a diverse group of dedicated citizens on our team who would represent a broad spectrum of interests.

Key among these were Linda Telaak, Bob Hunt, Don Larkin (who gave us the name for our team: AVID — Apple Valley Incorporation Drive), Hank Berry and myself. We were backed up by over 30 others who represented various groups which included homeowners, senior citizens, retailers, real estate, environment, equestrian and special districts (water, park, fire, school, law enforcement, legal, financial and public relations). In this very active time of getting our organization set up, we relied heavily on the Chamber for support in keeping everyone informed. This task was superbly accomplished by Heidi Larkin (Reed), Marla Rinchiuso, our own Eva Conrad of the Apple Valley News along with many other helpful reporters from both the Daily Press and the Sun.

During this process, Hank Berry suggested that AVID adopt the following preamble:

We the people of Apple Valley wish to retain the rural lifestyle, clean air, and the sense of security that brought us here. We can do this by bearing the responsibility for our own actions. We can do this by taking charge of our destiny. We can do this by becoming a city.

We all agreed!

Boosting the effort

The ability to raise the money needed in this effort was a constant challenge. One of the more interesting and popular events used to do this included the Chardonnay Cityhood Funraiser where Don Ferrarese and Jack Fales auctioned off bottles of wine. It was noted that a bottle of 1928 Chateau Morgeaux brought $500 (from an effervescent group from Victorville). According to the Dead Man’s Point epitaph, a group of working girls (Shirley Ferree, Eva Conrad, Linda Telaak, and Heidi Larkin) went to work right where they belonged (in the Red Dog Saloon). A more traditional approach was a donation to become a member of the $49er Club. Along with the fundraising efforts, a series of speaking events was aimed at every service and garden club along with similar venues where the AVID proponents could reach out to the public with why cityhood was so important to our future.

An unusual opportunity presented itself in the summer of 1986. This was the upcoming vote for the Apple Valley, Hesperia and Snowline school districts to integrate each district into a K-12 organizational structure. The AVID team felt that the outcome of this vote would be very useful to determine the extent of community support to maintain its status as a separate entity versus remaining part of a larger district. To clear the air on this possibility, the AVID team chose to hold back its efforts until after the districts voted. In the case of Apple Valley, the results were strongly in favor of forming a separate district, clearly reflecting the will of the citizenry to support remaining our own distinctive community. Based on this outcome, we felt reassured that AVID was on the right track to achieve cityhood, and so our efforts could now go full speed ahead.

The next phase of the AVID campaign was the updated and scrub down of the draft feasibility study. A great deal of time was now spent with LAFCO to obtain the specific financial details from both the county and state that would confirm the viability of Apple Valley to meet the requirements outlined in the State Incorporation Guidelines. The gathering and acquisition of the necessary information was a slow, and at times frustrating process (and it hasn’t changed much since). The LAFCO staff was always very supportive of our efforts throughout this phase. In spite of this, our progress became so slow that we felt our goal might never be reached.

As we moved ahead into 1987, all the pieces began to slowly come together, and we were able to update and complete the formal feasibility study. This document showed how much revenue and expenses we could count on to affect us through the first year’s transition phase. Another key part of this study consisted of identifying, by legal description and map, the proposed boundaries. The area we proposed was 67 square miles. This was considered an unusually large one for an initial incorporation. We based this proposal on several important factors which could significantly affect our future, namely: the desire to preclude another Golden Triangle dispute with adjoining cities; the economic need to include a development window to Interstate 15; and offsetting the large area in the middle of Apple Valley designated by the United States Geological Survey as a flood plain. (In August 1963, a sizable downpour from a thunderstorm filled this lake to a depth of more than 3 feet.)

Along with updates to the feasibility study, petitions were mailed to the voters specifying that the issue of cityhood be placed before them. This was begun in the summer of 1987. The petitions served as the formal request to LAFCO to initiate proceeding for the incorporation of Apple Valley within the boundaries as described on the attached legal description and map. The stated purpose identified was: to provide local control over municipal services; to provide citizens the opportunity to determine the nature, development and types and levels of service they desire; and to permit the voters the right to elect their own representatives to the legislative body with a major voice in determining land use and local services. The chief petitioners on the proposal were AVID members Joseph Daidone, Linda J. Telaak and Richard P. Pearson. It was also noted that the city council shall appoint the city manager, clerk and treasurer. Of the 4,000 petitions mailed out, the verified names of 3,521 registered voters were returned. This represented a 26.5-percent voter approval rate, well above the minimum 25 percent. We were on our way!

The updates of the feasibility study were completed in December 1987 and the required 50 copies were delivered to LAFCO. From this point on, the pace really quickened. Hearings were held by both LAFCO and the Board of Supervisors in the spring of 1988. Many important issues were resolved, such as the inclusion of a tract of horse owners’ homes on the east side of the Mojave River north of Bear Valley Road to maintain a uniform boundary along the river. Somewhat more significant (to AVID) was the decision to officially identify the proposed municipality as the Town of Apple Valley, a choice given to proponents under state law. From a psychological perspective, most people readily accepted the idea that a town designation represents a more rural, easy-going lifestyle than a city which suggests dense development and a more hectic pace. In our opinion, this was probably what Newt Bass had in mind back in 1948. Another action taken during the hearings was a provision to include the Apple Valley Water District (primarily concerned with sewering) into a subsidiary of the new town. This move later proved to be very provident in that the district executive director was Bruce Williams who, with his staff, became our interim management team following the formal incorporation.

Moving into 1988

It had been our hope for some time that we could complete all the necessary requirements to allow us inclusion on the April 1988 ballot along with Hesperia. Unfortunately, but perhaps another provident move placed Apple Valley on the November 1988 ballot. This seeming delay came as a big disappointment to many, but in reality, during the first year of incorporation, the county has to continue to provide services decided upon by the town council. For Apple Valley, that became a six-month financially free ride, as compared to a month or so if we had started in April. Also, as the tail end charleys, we were able to negotiate a slightly higher return on our taxes than would otherwise have been possible. Spurred on by the apparent support coming from citizen polling and face-to-face contacts, the number of potential candidates for a position on the five-member council really began to jump as more and more papers were pulled. When the closing date for filing came, 33 people had thrown their hat in the ring. Just before the election, only three had decided to drop out! Previously, the AVID team had agreed that once any AVID board member had pulled papers, they would step down. This led to Hank Berry, Heidi Larkin Reed and myself vacating our positions on the AVID Board. This left Linda Telaak, Don Larkin, Tom Perry and Sheila Williams to handle the baton exchange and carry on for the next few months. We all agreed that our effort for incorporation was on a positive roll and success was within reach.

An interesting note along the way came again from Larry Chimbole, who gave us encouragement by sharing with us a real benefit from so many people running for office, especially in a newly formed city. Namely, it would help increase the spreading of the word to support incorporation.

Last minute updates to help voters before the election on Nov. 8, 1988 for Measure K (for incorporation) were provided by flyers handed out at supermarkets and other gathering places along with signage, newspapers and radio spots everywhere you turned. We wanted everyone to be familiar with the main elements of the incorporation drive, such as how to pick the best candidates out of a field of 30 (attending forums and town hall meetings, when available, was a popular one), should we elect by district or at-large in the future — these and many other questions (and answers) became the mode of the day over a cup of coffee (or adult beverage).

As the voting day descended upon us, everyone was anxious to get this over and begin the transition to local control. The evening of the vote brought many citizens to the Community Center to join in the tracking of how the vote was going for both their favorite candidate and how successful the overall AVID effort was going. Most of us had to wait until the next day for results as a power problem somewhere held up some of the ballot counting. Finally, it was over!

The ‘Big Day’ arrives

An overwhelming majority voted for incorporation by a margin of 10,683 to 2,117 — 83.4 percent to 16.5 percent. The voters chose Nick DePrisco, Heidi Larkin Reed, Dick Pearson, Carl Coleman and Jack Collingsworth as the first Town Council. Council members had expected to take office Nov. 22 upon completion of paperwork for funding and state certification. It was also determined by the voters that future council members would be elected at-large (Measure L), which won by 68.3 percent. The final hurdle of suspense continued as word went out that the proposed resolution authorizing the incorporation by the Board of Supervisors had missed the deadline for submission and would probably be moved to Nov. 28 as the official incorporation date.

As it turned out, that date became the official one as shown on the Certificate of Completion from LAFCO.

Source: Dick Pearson, Apple Valley Review, applevalley-review.com/node/1252