Council approves pre-annexation of 5,700 acres south and west of city

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This map shows the area City Council approved for pre-annexation in September. The fire station for which the city just acquired land would serve much of that 5,700-acre area. [CVL Consultants/City of Maricopa]

The City Council on Tuesday approved a series of pre-annexation agreements with owners of 15 parcels totaling 5,741.9 acres south and east of the city in order to provide fire protection to landowners and potential future residents.

The land lies in unincorporated Pinal County, much of it in the Thunderbird Farms and Hidden Valley areas.

The properties range from the city’s northern boundary to well south of the existing city limit. All lie west of Ak-Chin Indian Community and stretch as far south as the Jennifer Road alignment, between West Century and West Korsten roads.

Maricopa has a land area of about 30,400 acres, meaning the additional acreage would add 18.9% to the city.

Robin Davis of Thunderbird Farms objected to the pre-annexation, saying it threatened the rural lifestyle for which she and her neighbors moved to the area.

“The neighbors of Thunderbird Farms and the Hidden Valley area feel this is not going to work in our rural neighborhood,” Davis said. “We’re all upset that our country way of life is being encroached on. The developers look at us as expendable, that we can be bought out and moved and they can pave over paradise in the name of more homes for more money.

“They see open land to build, and we see open land for farming, ranching and space to ride horses and breathe fresh air.”

She said area residents are happy to forego things like city services, streets, streetlights and utilities, and the taxes that come with them, in order to enjoy the quiet, starlight nights and slower pace of rural life.

“Now, all that is being threatened because developers are coming into Thunderbird and Hidden Valley, and if we don’t stop it now, it will just creep on and on,” Davis said.

Davis requested that pre-annexation be tabled to give area residents time to review them and evaluate how they might affect their lives and lifestyles.

Speaker Dorie Levy said the area already has a volunteer fire department, whose members all are certified firefighters, and they handled a large fire at a tree farm in the Thunderbird Farms area Aug. 20, which burned at least 15 acres near North Warren Road south of West Pima Road, as well as, or better than, a municipal fire department could.

Levy said the South Maricopa Fire Association will not provide better fire protection. She also said she does not believe it is truly a fire department.

“It’s not even a fire department, it’s an HOA,” Levy said. “They are just wanting to collect money from the community members in these new subdivisions and then look to city of Maricopa to provide these services. We need to utilize who we already have out there and give them the tax dollars they need to fight fires in the area.”

Maricopa City Manager Rick Horst said the pre-annexation process has been underway for about nine months and property owners were concerned about having fire services, which they are required by state statute to have in order to develop the land.

“I do want to indicate that these lands are represented by the landowners, and they are voluntarily moving into these agreements,” Horst said. “We do respect the fact that landowners have the right to choose what they want to do with their property.”

Horst said pre-annexation agreements provide physical, financial and legal protections for landowners.

“This assures that property owners and future homeowners who buy homes on that land will pay for those services through development and impact fees, while current residents will not be financially impacted,” Horst said.

He estimated fees would be about $400 per lot, per year. He also said an impact fee would be paid by developers when they build in order to provide infrastructure, such as utilities, streets, sidewalks and sewers.

Horst said the city wants a pre-annexation agreement because the land lies within its constitutionally recognized planning area. If the land eventually is annexed, the city would be legally obligated to provide services to residents.

“It ensures that the property owners and future owners (if they build homes on their property) pay for these services, so they do not come at the expense of the citizens of the city of Maricopa,” Horst said. “Our responsibility is to those we serve in our designated service areas as defined by the city code.”

Vice Mayor Vincent Manfredi said the city is looking for ways to provide services requested of it.

“I just want to make it clear this is developers asking us to step in and help with the situation – it’s not us going down finding developers and saying, ‘Buy that land and we’ll provide fire service for you.’”

Michael Koslow, president of the South Maricopa Fire Association, said an agreement like this has been in the works for nearly two decades.

“We have been working on this since as early as 2003, to provide fire (services) to the landowners who you see on the map,” Koslow said. “(SMFA) represents several hundred acres and we were very concerned as to the ISO (Insurance Services Office) ratings that would be provided to us, and really our only solution was the city of Maricopa. The city of Maricopa can provide us with the ISO ratings that are required for builders, as well as the future confidence of builders and homeowners … and this service would be provided for us day one.”

An ISO rating is a score provided to fire departments and insurance companies that reflects how prepared a community is for fires. Landowners typically cannot borrow money to develop land if it does not have an ISO rating, or if the rating is substandard.

Properties approved for pre-annexation into Maricopa

These 15 parcels secured pre-annexation agreements:

Owner name / Project name / Acreage

  • Palomino Ranch Partners / Palomino Ranch / 295.8 acres.
  • PRP 350 / Palomino Ranch / 361.7.
  • Amarillo and Papago Investments / Amarillo Creek / 227.0.
  • JHC Amarillo 3 LLP / Amarillo Creek / 235.0.
  • Ashton Wood / Amarillo Creek / 159.0.
  • Desert Cedars / 16.0.
  • Picacho Landings Equity / 10.9.
  • Pecan Woods LLC / Pecan Woods / 163.5.
  • Amarillo Creek / South Tresano / 310.5.
  • LGI Homes / Venida / 103.3.
  • HAM Sunset LLC / Sunset Canyon / 350.0.
  • Miller and White / Terraza / 815.0.
  • Hidden Valley Ranch Partners / Hidden Valley Ranch / 603.8.
  • HAM Mesa LLC / HAM Mesa / 683.0.
  • HAM Sienna LLC / HAM Sienna / 1,407.4.

Total pre-annexed area – 5,741.9 acres

Parcels 12, 14 and 15 total 616.7 acres and are not part of the pre-annexation resolution.

Vincent Manfredi is co-owner of InMaricopa.