DIAMOND BAR — Cityhood in 1988, a goal sought by leaders in this community of 60,000 for more than a year, has been rendered impossible by the objections of six residents.
The six signed a letter received last week by the county Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), asking the commission to reconsider its July 13 approval of Diamond Bar's incorporation application.
That request has forced a delay in the incorporation process that will prevent the county Board of Supervisors from considering Diamond Bar's application by Aug. 11, the deadline for qualifying a measure for the November ballot.
'No Man's Land'
The next election in which Diamond Bar voters could decide the cityhood issue will be held March 7.
In the letter, the residents opposed the inclusion in the proposed city's boundaries of a 600-acre neighborhood between the communities of Diamond Bar and Rowland Heights, dubbed "Area A" by the LAFCO staff and referred to as "no man's land" by residents.
When LAFCO approved Diamond Bar's application for cityhood at a public hearing July 13, Supervisor Pete Schabarum--a member of the commission--moved that Area A be excluded from the city boundaries. The six commission members split on his motion and the area remained within the proposed city.
The six residents, none of whom live in the disputed area, wrote that they opposed its inclusion "for various reasons." When reached for comment, three of them declined to specify those reasons, saying they will state their objections at a rehearing if LAFCO chooses to hold one.
"We do have some definite ideas about the boundaries and that sort of thing, and at the proper time, they will be known," said Janice Smith, who signed the letter with her husband, Merle.
If the request filed by the six residents is based on information evidence LAFCO has already considered, the commission may reject the request at its Aug. 10 meeting without holding another public hearing, LAFCO administrative assistant Michi Takahashi said.
Cityhood backers angrily questioned the residents' motives.
"It's nothing more than a political ploy, that's all it is," said Gary Werner, chairman of the Incorporation '88 Committee. "I think it's just irresponsible people abusing the system."
Phyllis Papen, president of the Diamond Bar Improvement Assn., blasted the letter as "a very selfish, manipulative move."
"Six people, without stating any reason, have invalidated 6,000," Papen said, referring to the number of Diamond Bar residents who signed petitions seeking a November cityhood vote. "Every community has a few bad apples. It's frustrating."
Diamond Bar voters rejected incorporation in 1983, 3,463 to 3,233. Werner and Papen said the six residents who signed the request for reconsideration were among the incorporation opponents five years ago.
"They knew they weren't going to win," Papen said, adding that the residents could have voiced their opposition earlier in the incorporation process. "They have remained conspicuously silent for the last year and a half. It's a sabotage campaign."
Merle Smith denied being a staunch foe of cityhood.
"I'm not opposed to incorporation or for it," he said. "My mind is not set in concrete. If they can give me a good reason for incorporation, I'll vote for it."
Under state law, anyone opposed to a proposed incorporation may request reconsideration from LAFCO within 30 days after the commission approves the cityhood application.
The final step in the cityhood process is a protest hearing before the Board of Supervisors. Unless 50% of the registered voters in the incorporation area submit written protests to the board, the supervisors will place the incorporation proposal on the ballot.
The Board of Supervisors had scheduled a protest hearing for Diamond Bar on Aug. 9, only 27 days after LAFCO gave its approval, to enable cityhood backers to meet the election deadline.
Such scheduling would have been legally permissible if no requests for reconsideration had been received, said Bill Pellman, senior assistant county counsel. But because of the protest, the full 30-day reconsideration period must elapse to permit other requests to be submitted, he said.
After the 30 days are up, the Board of Supervisors must provide 15 days' notice before holding its protest hearing, Pellman said. Hence, the earliest the Board of Supervisors could schedule the hearing is Aug. 29.
Cityhood proponents had stressed the need for a November vote, believing the higher turnout expected for a presidential election would improve their chances for success. However, Werner said the 4-month delay will not prove fatal to the incorporation drive.
Doubts Major Effect
"Certainly it will have an impact in terms of timing, but as far as the issue of whether we should incorporate, I don't think it will have a major effect," Werner said.