Thu, Feb. 20

Editorial: Annexation a definite win-win for residents in Sawmill Gardens

Oh, if it could always be this easy.

Cottonwood’s newest foray into boundary expansion via annexation comes without the landmines that typically turn a perfectly good idea into an ugly political fight.

This newest annexation comes at the request of the 59 property owners who reside in the Sawmill Gardens development.

And that in itself if the major difference in what we typically see with annexation efforts.

The property owners in Sawmill Gardens are the ones asking to be added to the city limits.

This does not fall into the category of what often is called a “hostile” annexation.

Further, it should also open discussion about future annexation needs that, if for no other reason, will clean up some awkward blocks of land that come close to being county islands within the city limits.

Case in point is the sliver of land that begins just east of 18th Street in Cottonwood and does not pick up again within the municipal boundaries at Yorba Lane.

This connects to the rather large land mass annexed a few years ago to allow the now seemingly shelved 89 & Vine housing and commercial development to be part of the city.

Long-term, of course, there always will be the question of whether Verde Village, Verde Santa Fe and Bridgeport should be included within Cottonwood’s municipal boundaries.

If history offers up any good lessons, these three annexations are easier said than done.

Debates over taxation, fire service and voting rights typically kill annexation drives in these areas.

As for the taxation issue, folks in the county areas of the Upper Verde Valley already contribute mightily to Cottonwood’s sale tax base without any direct return to their particular neighborhood in terms of service. Some would call that taxation without representation.

The fire service debate is probably the biggest hurdle in a Cottonwood annexation of Verde Village, Verde Santa Fe or Bridgeport.

On one hand, a successful annexation would mean the elimination of the Verde Valley Fire District property tax that would be replaced by Cottonwood municipal fire service, for which there is no special taxing district.

The alternative would be a retention of the Verde Valley Fire District levy and expansion of the district to include Cottonwood city limits.

Either way, it likely would lead to a decrease in fire service property taxes for those living in Verde Village, Verde Santa Fe or Bridgeport.

Finally, during any large-scale annexation drive, you will hear from those who say the process is unfair unless they are allowed to vote on it.

A good argument can be made that the legal process for annexation is both more representative and innately more fair than what you typically see in an election.

While elections are often decided by less than 50% of the people who go to the trouble of registering to vote in the first place, annexation drives guarantee a pure majority buy-in for annexation to take place.

Arizona law requires that at least 50 percent, plus one, of the property owners, and owners representing more than 50 percent of the assessed value of the properties, agree to be annexed before a municipality can consider and approve an ordinance annexing the area.

For the folks in Sawmill Gardens, should they become annexed into Cottonwood’s city limits, they will see a reduction in their property tax rate, a return on their existing sales tax investment to the city, a chance to vote in city elections and even the opportunity to serve on the Cottonwood City Council.

Any way you look at it, annexation represents a win-win for the folks in Sawmill Gardens.

And something very important for those county residents who live near Cottonwood to think about.

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