The nearly 110,000 residents of San Tan Valley are within a few steps of being able to seek a vote to incorporate the community.
Without dissent the Senate Government Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that removes the ability of nearby communities to veto another new city or town on its borders. SB1125 now goes to the full Senate.
That vote comes a day after the House voted 40-20 for HB2088, which contains exactly the same language. That clears the way for having the two measures combined and, if approved, sent to Gov. Doug Ducey.
Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said his boss has not yet had a chance to review the measure.
If signed, the legislation would end a multi-year battle by residents of the community to get permission to try to establish their own town.
Area resident Trisha Castillo said they have been “desperately waiting for the opportunity to determine their own future.”
But ending the veto power of Florence or Apache Junction does not guarantee there would be a new town. It still would require an affirmative vote of half the residents.
The target of both the Senate and House bills is a law that creates planning areas that extend beyond the actual boundaries of cities and towns. That goes out six miles for cities of at least 5,000 and three miles for smaller towns.
Until 2011, all such communities had veto power over new municipalities within that area.
That ability was removed for any area of at least 15,000 residents to allow residents of Vail to pursue incorporation. Vail voters decided against going that route.
But that 2011 law had one exception: The veto power remains for existing Pinal County communities until 2020. These bills would wipe that out if the planned community has more residents than any of the objecting neighbors.
Castillo said there’s no reason for that special hurdle.
“Currently everybody else in the state of Arizona gets a chance to do this if you have more than 15,000 people,” she told lawmakers. “We’re looking for the same opportunity other communities have.”
Jeff Knudson, assistant town manager of Florence, acknowledged his town vetoed San Tan incorporation in 2010. But he said it was the result of financial concerns in the middle of the recession.
“It was simply unfortunate timing due to the economic climate,” he said. Knudson insisted Florence is not now opposed to San Tan Valley, though he did sign in opposing the legislation.