Residents of the San Tan Valley are now free to try to incorporate their area as a new city.
Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday signed legislation removing a legal impediment that has so far blocked residents from even starting the formal process. Ducey did not comment on his decision.
But Tuesday’s action does not guarantee there will someday be such a city.
Instead, it simply allows the process to start. And once the lines are drawn for the proposed new community, it still needs a majority of people within those boundaries who show up to vote to support the plan.
Some area residents have been pushing incorporation for years. But they have so far been blocked by a law — one that does not apply in all counties — that gives cities of up to 5,000 residents the right to veto new towns within three miles. For larger cities, that veto right extends out six miles.
The hurdle here has been that the proposed city lines come within six miles of Florence, with a population of 26,000. And to date the city council there has not agreed to permit the incorporation.
As signed by the governor, the new law creates a very specific exemption.
First, it requires that the proposed incorporated area have at least 15,000 residents. San Tan Valley meets that criteria with an estimated population exceeding 100,000.
Second, it requires the proposed new city must be larger than the one that normally would have the right to object.
How quickly incorporation efforts can begin is unclear.
While Ducey signed the measure on Tuesday, it does not officially take effect until 90 days after the legislative session ends. So if lawmakers remain at the Capitol until the end of April, that makes an effective date of the end of July.
It is possible, though, that incorporation supporters could take some steps to start circulating the necessary petitions to have the Pinal County Board of Supervisors schedule a vote. By law, those petitions must have the signatures of 10 percent of those who live in the affected area.
There is another alternative: If there are petitions with two-thirds of the area residents, the new town is automatically incorporated without an election.
In both cases, though, there is a time limit: Backers have 180 days from the application to start circulating petitions.