Queen Creek has just annexed 755 acres in San Tan Valley, bounded on the north and west by Combs and Gantzel (Ironwood) Roads. Surprise! Not surprised.
Back in March of 2018, when it looked like the pro-ballot Vote San Tan Valley (VSTV) group was gaining momentum, two men representing Shea Homes, the developers of the Encanterra community and golf course at Combs and Gantzel Roads, stepped in and quashed the ballot initiative.
How could they override the democratic process? According to Rey Torres, one of the VSTV initiative leaders, more than half of the Encanterra homeowners had already signed the petition in favor of a vote! Those signatures represented a healthy portion of the 10% of San Tan Valley property owners needed to move the issue to the ballot. But when Shea Homes Regional Project Manager Rob Izer and General Manager Levi Shill issued a statement that, as the “master declarant,” Shea Homes would not give permission for the ballot to take place, they were able to override the homeowners’ signatures, effectively ending the incorporation movement. (Shea Homes had yet to turn the development over to a resident-controlled HOA, thus retaining the majority representation for the development.)
Of course, Izer and Shill, who had previously stated that they favored incorporation into Queen Creek, played off their interference as “preserving choice” for their community.
Yes, they claimed that stopping a ballot initiative that would allow residents to choose whether or not to incorporate was “preserving choice.”
Now, Encanterra, as of November 19, will be part of Queen Creek, creating a municipal peninsula that effectively separates the northern portion of San Tan Valley from the larger southern section.
Sources state that Queen Creek will pay Shea Homes $8.9 million for treating wastewater from Encanterra, while Queen Creek will receive $17.4 million from one-time revenues of 783 newly constructed homes and $2.3 million in ongoing revenue after the annexation. They will also receive any sales tax generated by clubhouse revenues and homeowner property tax.
To be fair, petitions were distributed among the property owners within the Encanterra development (after the ballot initiative for incorporation was formally rejected), and 62% said that they are in favor of annexation – which makes sense, as it would seem that joining Queen Creek may be the only way San Tan Valley residents will be allowed to accomplish any of the stability that comes with a local government.
It is interesting how every time San Tan Valley residents try to take incorporation to a vote, something happens to block the effort… and then Queen Creek absorbs additional property within San Tan Valley. With the annexation of Encanterra, they are now reaching into the San Tan Valley planning area established by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.
Quite honestly, I can see both the pros and cons to San Tan Valley incorporation. And the expansion of Queen Creek, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. What appalls me is the ongoing politics that have usurped the right of 100,000+ residents to decide for themselves whether or not they want to form their own municipal representation.
As stated by Rey Torres, “There’s nothing more American than self-determination. I think we fought a war for independence on that same basis.”
Should San Tan Valley remain unincorporated? Should they form their own municipality? Should they petition Queen Creek for annexation? I don’t have an answer - but the debate isn’t mine to resolve. It is the right of the people to decide.
If we can ever get the politics out of the smoke-filled back room, and let the people vote.