Thu, May 23

Dead Horse annexation alarms Cornville

What started as a request for annexation north of Cottonwood has spread east to Verde Sante Fe and alarmed residents of Cornville.

The proposed annexation rambles from Dead Horse Ranch State Park to Bill Gray Road and makes a peninsula of Bridgeport. If approved, the annexation would border the unincorporated area on the west, north and east.

Property owners such as the State Park, Blazin' M Ranch and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church had questioned the city about annexation, Mayor Ruben Jauregui said. The church property, 60 acres at the junction of Bill Gray and Arizona 89A, is contemplated for a new church and school facility.

Also included is a north portion of Verde Sante Fe development. The annexation reaches into the Cornville/Page Springs Fire District.

According to Belle Starr, president of the Cornville Community Association, Fire Chief Doug Longfellow alerted the association to the ongoing annexation drive. Association members met last week to voice concern and hear from Cottonwood representatives.

The fire district reached an agreement with Cottonwood that allows the district boundaries to remain intact. Shrinking the district would have meant a loss in funding.

"If they didn't have an agreement, I would have had a problem with it," Longfellow said.

Cottonwood Community Development Director Jerry Owen said property owners sought annexation to gain city services. To better understand the governmental processes involved in such an undertaking, the Cornville Community Association formed subcommittees to look at the issue.

"Even I didn't understand everything that annexation encompasses," Starr said. "Obviously, it's give and take. Property owners have to ask them (the City) for annexation, but they had to go out and solicit the state land to accommodate the landowners."

The proposed annexation includes Coconino National Forest land and state trust land.

Joseph Smyth, an association board member who witnessed similar circumstances in California, shared ideas for resisting encroachment from municipal entities. That included convincing landowners to sell or lease development rights to the land.

"Our goal is to not be in reaction to any issue that comes up," Starr said. The association also looked at other possibilities short of incorporation.

The riddle is keeping annexation out of its boundaries without the incorporation that the association overall opposes. Starr said the Cornville boundaries are the fire district boundaries.

Smyth told the association that cities like Cottonwood seek annexation mainly to gain revenue. Cornville has already compared Cottonwood's growth to the urban sprawl of Phoenix.

Starr said there should be a "good neighbor" policy between entities like community association, municipalities and the county to inform each other of major decisions like annexation. Owen and Jauregui came to Cornville after the association was informed of the contemplated move through other sources but had no legal obligation to do so.

The association, however, felt there was at least an ethical obligation to apprise them of the situation, though the annexation is a few miles from the heart of Cornville itself.

"Too often, people just see their own business and don't look at the whole picture," Starr said.