Castle Valley Comments: Feb. 20, 2020

Ron Drake

Last week this column made reference to a committee with a mission to explore the possibility of turning our community of Castle Valley into an incorporated town.

The Castle Valley Incorporation Feasibility Committee and their subcommittees met nearly weekly in meetings and workshops to discuss preliminary zoning ordinances, proposed town boundaries, and a slate of five candidates to fill the appointed positions on the petition, which was circulated around the valley.

Finally, in May of 1985, the committee, after several daylong workshops to weigh the pros and cons of an incorporated town, held an unofficial election. The names that appeared on the petition were Marguerite Sweeney for mayor and Tom Rees, Valli Smouse, John Groo, and Saxon Sharpe for the council. Fifty-one percent of the registered voters who lived within the proposed town boundaries were needed for the petition to be valid. The required signatures were obtained and the petition was presented to the county commission for review. Of course, there were some who opposed the possibility of a town fearing increased taxes in the future, absence of law enforcement and other concerns.

The statement from the proposed town council accompanied the petition that was circulated around the valley read in part: “We, the proposed mayor and town council members for the future Town of Castle Valley would like to invite each and every resident to participate to whatever extent they wish in the progress of our community toward incorporation as a town. Certainly many of us moved to this fine spot to find lives for ourselves that were removed from the hassles and encumbrances of city life.

“What is clear is that many of the decisions we should be making for ourselves are still being made by others over whom we have little influence. For the council members and mayor elect, incorporation is not an attempt to prescribe rules and regulations or to impose our ideas or lifestyles on others. On the contrary, we believe that diversity in our community is desirable and should be promoted.” The statement went on to enlist the direction and participation from the community and said their goals included ensuring protection of our water rights and protection of the watershed and writing an effective master plan to guide future development in the town.

In June of that year the county commission approved the petition and Castle Valley became the second largest incorporated community in Grand County. But it wasn’t without controversy.

Nearly three years later a group of people who were dissatisfied with the town government collected enough signatures to place the dissolution issue on the ballot during a special election. Seventy-seven percent of the registered voters shot the proposition down by a two to one majority. Mayor Sweeney was “very pleased” with the decision and thought there was a lot of misunderstanding such as the town levying a tax and the town council purchasing liability insurance.

Seven years later — 25 years ago this week — a similar group that was unhappy with the town filed a disincorporation petition with the county clerk’s office, The signatures were verified and the petition was turned over to the district court and Judge Lyle Anderson set April 18 for a special election. In that election, 78 percent of the registered voters voted down the measure by a margin of 30 votes.

In September 1997, 10 Castle Valley property owners who represented 19 town lots petitioned the town council for de-annexation. They said, “the town has lost focus” and cited the lack of material and maintenance on the town’s roads. The desire of the petitioning property owners to secede from the town’s political structure was indicative, however, of differing values. The town council did not approve the petition.

The final attempt to dissolve the town came in September 1998 when voters went to the polls to decide the fate of the town. By a close margin of only four votes, petitioners who sought to have the town disincorporated lost their effort. Eighty-nine residents voted to continue the incorporated town and eighty-five voted for discontinuation. Prior to that election, a bogus flyer was distributed among the residents stating that if Castle Valley was disincorporated, mail service would no longer be available. The Moab postmaster didn’t know who planned the intimidation tactic but said it was false.

So, in spite of the town’s trials and tribulations, the Town of Castle Valley lives on and remains free of the hassles and encumbrances of city life even with our differing values.