COTTONWOOD -- About 200 people filled the Cottonwood Recreation Center meeting room Thursday evening to voice their feelings over the proposed Verde Santa Fe annexation.
About 20 people actually spoke to the issue.
After an hour and a half, the council voted to proceed with the annexation process and allow petitions to be circulated. Council members, led by Terence Pratt repeated that the process is a democratic one and gives a chance for voices to be heard. An earlier motion by Darold Smith to delay a vote until the seating of the new council in June failed for lack of a second.
Jim Iacovacci, the Verde Santa Fe homeowner who first launched the annexation proposal and is the organization's chairman, was the first to address the council. He told of the concept's history, but emphasized that "annexation is not an homeowner's association issue," referring to a charge now circulating.
"Change is inevitable," said, Iacovacci. "Verde Santa Fe has already changed. I want to be part of the changes."
"I resent spending time on their agenda," rebutted Deborah Seagal, who voiced opposition to the annexation movement. She spoke of the small numbers that are on the organizing committee, saying, "50 homeowners is only a small number of the population of Verde Santa Fe."
Seagal emphasized for the audience, "No signature means 'no!'"
Many voiced individual concerns. Dwight Mills compared the costs of ambulance service in unincorporated Cottonwood and in the City.
Another countered that the planned area development is not rural. He had lived in Cottonwood Ranch, Chino Valley and now in Verde Santa Fe. "Chino is a rural environment, but not Verde Santa Fe," he emphasized.
Judith Peobles, who has lived six years in Verde Santa Fe, believes fire response is the same inside and outside the city, but that many residents live on a fixed income and the difference in paying the additional property tax for Verde Valley Fire, "could mean the difference in food and medicine."
Pamela Willis said she has heard her property values will drop by joining the city, and every realtor she called told her the opposite.
Annexation "is a classic win-win, I would rather that we were constituents, not stepchildren," insisted Robert Donze, a part-time transplant from the Philadelphia area who has been a former council member himself. He urged everyone to remain civil. He said, "It will require a whole lot of democracy."
Bill Laitenberger and Deanna King are both VSF residents against annexation. King said," I like living in Cornville. I have not heard one good reason why not to be in Cornville."
Linda Chamberlain recalled another annexation in another state when the remaining golf course was not kept up by the city. And she asked, "What will happen to Cornville?"
Another woman ticked off the oft-repeated reasons to join the city, "taxes and security of property."
City Manager Doug Bartosh responded to some of the questions that emerged, especially about whether Cottonwood could afford adding Verde Santa Fe. "If it was at the end of SR 260, it would be a strain, but it's right next door. We have already been planning for Bella Montana. A second fire company has been added." The proposed subdivision already annexed would be built across Cornville Road.
A number of the council and staff members repeated that the process is democratic. If more than 50 percent of the citizens inside the proposed boundaries sign the petition, in both numbers and value of property, the annexation is assured. The city's only vote is to allow the process to get started.
The next step is for the city to file with the Yavapai County Recorder a blank petition together with a map and legal description of the "annexation territory." It must also certify that the territory is not subject to any other annexation proceeding. The filing starts a 30-day waiting period during which no signatures may be gathered. Before the 30-day period ends, a formal public hearing must be held, the process must be publicized the city must notify various agencies.
City Attorney Steve Horton noted that the city has already held two such hearings that were not formally required and the formal hearing would actually be the third hearing.
The annexation proponents have one year to gather signatures.
The City must also adopt a 10-year plan for extension of services and the city has six months to establish zoning for Verde Santa Fe. Both those issues are more appropriate to raw land. Services area already in place and zoning will remain the same.