The City of Cottonwood may have jumped the gun on an agreement made with the Cornville-Page Springs Fire District over the planned annexation of land east of the present city limts.
The land in question is the north portion of the Verde Sante Fe development. Although far removed from Cornville, the property does fall within the boundaries of the Cornville-Page Springs Fire District. It is currently undeveloped land. Therefore, it does not generate significant property tax for the fire district.
But it's also land that is one day expected to be the site for commercial development. When that happens, it's going to generate considerable property tax. That could be very good news for the Cornville-Page Springs Fire District.
Cottonwood also has its eyes on the same land, thanks to the prompting of several area land owners requesting annexation into the city. The Verde Sante Fe land, if commercially developed, offers another source of sales tax for Cottonwood to tap in to. And, it's right in line with the path of the city's extension of Mingus Avenue and eventual connection to Cornville Road.
Acquiescing to the concerns of the Cornville-Page Springs Fire District is a good political move for Cottonwood — now. It could be a big headache for the city down the road, however.
City officials in Cottonwood obviously have learned their lessons well. Past annexation drives in Verde Village, for example, were largely derailed by the politics of the Verde Rural Fire District. You scream loud enough and long enough about the loss of fire services — as if Cottonwood does not have a fire department of its own— and annexation goes down the drain.
That's the risk the city would run by upsetting the Cornville-Page Springs Fire District on this annexation plan.
But one day, if indeed this area develops commercially, merchants trying to carve out a living for themselves are going to ask this question: "My business is in the Cottonwood city limits. Cottonwood has a municipal fire department. I'm collecting a city sales tax to help pay for this fire department. Why, then, am I paying a hefty commercial property tax assessment to a rural fire district?"
If these merchants screamed foul, they would be well within their rights to do so.
The city very well could be backing itself into a corner. It might make sense to play politics on this one today. But you can bet there will be some political squirming by the city council once these merchants figure out they're being double taxed for fire services.
Cottonwood is doing nothing more now than hedging its political bets.
In doing so, down the road all the city is doing is dealing itself a losing hand.