For three years, Swannanoa had been caught in a sometimes-tumultuous debate over whether to incorporate as a town. Proponents of the move said residents would have better services and more control over their own destiny, while opponents asserted that it would bring higher taxes and regulations unsuited to an area that remains largely rural.
On Election Day Swannanoa incorporation was decisively defeated at the polls. As its final hurdle, the proposed incorporation had to pass a referendum, and the residents of the would-be town turned their thumbs down, with 61 percent of those who cast ballots rejecting incorporation. In a year with anemic municipal turnouts, the referendum saw much higher attention, with about 40 percent of registered voters in the area turning out. In the end, 1,589 voted against incorporation and 1,013 for it.
"Obviously, we're pleased with the results — we wanted the people of Swannanoa to have a vote, and they've spoken," said Gary Aiken, a leader of the Swannanoa Truth anti-incorporation group. "We thought that they would see the implications of this and speak loud and clear if they got the opportunity."
Aiken believes that the vote ends the possibility of incorporation "for the time being, but this isn't the first time it's come up. There were attempts in 1975, 1989 and now in 2009. So we probably haven't seen the last of this issue."
For all the animosity that the incorporation debate stirred up in the months preceding the vote, Aiken believes that the controversy has "made Swanannoa aware of who we are. It's definitely brought out some pride and a feeling of community."
Dave Alexander, chair of the Swannanoa Incorporation task force, said he's "obviously disappointed by the results" and praised the "countless hours of hard work" that pro-incorporation volunteers put in over the last three years.
"This [incorporation] isn't something you do casually: It's a very rigorous process," Alexander told Xpress. "For the time being, I think incorporation is moribund. I don't see anyone wanting to pick it up anytime soon. Where we go from here, I just don't know."
He mentioned that some statements from the anti-incorporation side "may indicate that they see its time to sit down and talk about community leadership."