City, Seven Ranches water district in early talks for takeover

Liquidate AZ Seven Ranches
The owners of Liquidate AZ have purchased this property in Seven Ranches to relocate their auction company. Photo by Bob McGovern

The City of Maricopa is in discussions to take over operation of the Seven Ranches Domestic Water Improvement District, a move that could provide tax relief and enhanced service to its customers.

The district is composed of about 275 acres south of Honeycutt Road between Porter and White and Parker roads. It includes the Circle K store, Sequoia Pathway Academy, the Arizona Storage Co. and the U.S. Postal Service annex.

According to Maricopa City Manager Rick Horst, if an acquisition is negotiated, the city would assume management and operational control of the district and its infrastructure. He stressed that the district and city are being transparent about the potential acquisition, and he is cautiously optimistic about the deal moving forward.

“The residents and water users of the Seven Ranches area are aware of these actions and their Board representatives have kept them fully apprised of our actions today along with potential outcomes,” Horst said. “We do not take anything for granted and we will continue to work cooperatively with the District Board and take further actions as both the City and District so determine.”

According to Thomas Chapa, the chairman of the board of Seven Ranches, the proposed deal would benefit offer a variety of benefits for both district and city.

“If we do this, it will bring up the value of the properties in Seven Ranches for one,” Chapa said. “Upgrading the system – and this is not to say it needs improving now – they (the city) could do some things to improve it. The main reason for the city getting involved is fire suppression for the area, to be sure the flows are sufficient.”

The city has hired an outside independent engineering firm to assess district water systems and is working cooperatively with the Seven Ranches board on the review.

Horst agreed there are myriad benefits for both the city and Seven Ranches customers should the deal be completed, including:

  • An improved water system that would ensure fire flow and suppression systems that meet or exceed the standards of the National Fire Protection Association.
  • Allowing the City of Maricopa Fire Department to have full knowledge of the system’s capabilities to provide effective and efficient service. Systems improvements may result in a higher insurance rating with the potential of reducing homeowner’s insurance costs.
  • City control of system operations would remove liability and risk concerns from the district.
  • Rate protection to ensure that future rates would not exceed current rate parameters beyond customary rate increases.
  • Eliminating the current district tax, providing a property tax savings to all property owners within the district.
  • Providing availability of sanitary sewer services to resolve failed septic systems.
  • Enhancing or vacating underutilized property development, and/or enhance land values.

Chapa cautioned that while talks are amicable and ongoing, negotiations are in early stages.

Map shows the Seven Ranches Domestic Water Improvement District

“This is a five- or six-step process and we’re barely in step one,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of steps to go.”

“We’re not even at the point of talking about terms yet,” he continued. “There’s been a lot of talk, but I haven’t seen anything in writing. Right now, the only thing we’ve approved is for them to do their testing.”

Indeed, the only action spelled out in the current Intergovernmental Agreement is the evaluation underway. Horst called any talk of acquisition costs or final details “premature.”

Chapa likely would remain involved during any transition period, should the deal come to fruition.

“I would be involved for a certain amount of time, but not for very long,” he said. “Obviously, I’d like to be involved in that process, and being involved in it as long as I have (about 10 years).”

He went on to say that should the deal go through, at a minimum the residents of the district would have the required water pressures and fire flows to build in the area, making the area more attractive to potential developers.