Our community is diverse and large. Creating a great community means having participation and trust. It also means listening and talking with people.

Local resident Gerry Santomassimo would like to share his thoughts with the rest of the community on San Tan Valley and what Incorporation means to him. We encourage and support everyone in our area to take part and want to hear from you and what you hope to see from San Tan Valley. No matter your perspective on things, it is important to hear from everyone so we can grow as a community together. Because if we develop an “us versus them” mentality for our future we will lose out and become a weaker community.

I’m a resident in the STV area. I live in what’s called a “rural” neighborhood. We’re surrounded by farm fields and more livestock than people. The roads are dirt and sometimes rutted, but it’s peaceful and you can see the mountains by day and the stars at night. It’s a great place to live.

I’m writing about incorporation. As you well know, there is an effort underway to incorporate a vast area of roughly 68 square miles and approximately 100,000 people as the Town of San Tan Valley. A petition is being circulated to get this on the ballot as soon as August of this year.

I am opposed to this particular effort.

I have several reasons. First, there seem to be misconceptions about what incorporation may or may not do. There are also misconceptions about the laws allowing incorporation. And there are even misconceptions about the petition itself.

Incorporation won’t solve STV’s water problems. Johnson Utilities will continue to be the water company. They are regulated by state law, not locally. Sure, a town may be able to institute a “franchise fee,” but that is only going to be passed on to consumers – the first example of paying more for what you already get.

Incorporation will not substantially affect fire service. Arizona law does not require a town to provide a fire department. Rural Metro serves this area. That won’t change. A new town _may_ contract with them, and _may_ get a better deal than the current subscription price charged by RM. The operative word here is “may.” I’m not disparaging RM – they have my respect and admiration, and I’m a subscriber at both of my STV properties. But fire protection costs money, and we have no real idea how this will work other than the current service model.

The portions of the law I’m concerned with are those that govern the areas that may or may not be included in an incorporation. Rural, agricultural, and vacant land is supposed to be left out. They are not left out in this petition. In fact, it appears that the map that is part of the petition is substantially the same as the county’s Special Area Plan map, with few deviations, literally anything that can be considered “San Tan Valley.” It also includes areas that are currently within planning areas of surrounding towns, and even has an area that is working to get annexed to Queen Creek. (Queen Creek has apparently decided to only support STV incorporation if those discrepancies are corrected. It has not been made public as to whether or not that will occur.)

The primary misconception about the petition is the very nature of it. The Steering Committee says the petition is to simply get the question of whether or not we should become a town or not on the ballot. That’s a very benign description. In fact, the petition, together with the map presented to the county for approval, is a petition to place a question on the ballot to incorporate the area outlined on the map. It’s very specific as to the area; the borders on the map were certified by a surveyor associated with the Steering Committee. As a former surveyor myself, I know that a survey document is a legal instrument. Therefore, the area outlined IS the area of the proposed town and is part and parcel of the petition, period.

Infact, state law does not allow the map to be changed one the petition request is filed with the county, so if you’re in and it passes, you’re “in.”

There is the apparent “secrecy” of this process. There was not adequate notification to the community; allegedly, Facebook posts were made and not much else.There were no notifications made to most HOAs, landowners, or other community stakeholders. I, for one, found out about it the day the petition request was filed. I also found out at that time that no one was allowed to see the map of the proposed boundaries before filing, meaning no one could object. I was advised that the committee did not reach out to everyone because, to quote them, “there was not enough time” and “there are too many people to contact everyone” to which I have to say, “What was the rush?” and “This is a plan that affects everyone – there’s no such thing as too many!”

And there is no deadline to incorporate. There is simply no reason to rush into this without giving every possible opportunity for community involvement. Yet from all appearances, this is a race to get it on the ballot before anyone knows what happened.

There are issues with financing, such as the limited amount of money available to a new town to operate for the first few years. There are questions about services that will be needed from the start, many or possibly all of which will have to be contracted for with Pinal County. The cost of these contracts will not be covered completely by revenues from the various funds provided by the state – meaning, more taxes. Except in this case, these taxes will be for county services we already pay for.

Other members of the community have their own reasons to object, and I respect that. I’ll let them tell their own stories.

There is no doubt that a portion of this area should be incorporated into a city or town. For far too long, subdivision after subdivision were permitted, apparently without regard for the consequences of increased traffic, etc. A town should be able to get a handle on growth and insure that infrastructure grows with it. This, and many other reasons make a town an attractive proposition. But not this petition. There are too many unanswered questions, too many things done in secrecy, and too much territory to be a healthy, viable town. Let’s stop, rethink this, and put together a town that is second to none.

As a community, what are your thoughts? Do you agree with Mr. Santomassimo, do you disagree, or do you have your own questions and concerns? What would you like to see in our area?

If you would like to submit your thought or if you would like to communicate with Mr. Santomassimo you can contact us at info@santantimes and we will be sure Mr. Santomassimo receives the information or we will address or publish your concern with this or any other community topic.