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Defeat may mean land rush is on


Citizen Staff Writer

Although yesterday’s election means Casas Adobes will remain part of unincorporated Pima County, it may not stay that way for long.

Now that voters have rejected an attempt to incorporate the Northwest Side area, annexation efforts by Tucson, Marana and Oro Valley will begin in earnest, predicted Don Burtchin, chairman of the Casas Adobes Incorporation Committee.

“The next step is for the towns around us to start annexing the business areas,” he said.

Opponents of incorporating Casas Adobes, which would have had about 60,000 residents within a 25-square-mile area, carried the day yesterday.

The margin was 56 percent to 44 percent, with opponents racking up 1,000 more votes than supporters of incorporation. About 9,600 of the area’s 28,000 registered voters showed up at the polls, a 34 percent turnout.

Among the foremost reasons other cities are eyeing the area is Foothills Mall, a major generator of sales and property taxes.

Bounded by River Road on the south, Oasis Road on the north, Camino de Oeste on the west and First Avenue on the east, Casas Adobes also is home to numerous commercial operations that could be sources of tax dollars.

Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton last night said his town “will not actively pursue annexation.”

Oro Valley has unsuccessfully attempted to annex parts of Casas Adobes, but Mayor Paul Loomis said he wouldn’t rule out more attempts.

“It’s certainly something that will continue to be considered, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.

In Tucson, city leaders have been working to curry favor with Casas Adobes residents in case the incorporation effort failed.

A measure expected to reach the ballot in November contains an amendment targeted at areas such as Casas Adobes: It would allow any large area that is annexed by Tucson to form its own ward and elect its own council member, provided the would-be ward is similar to existing wards in size and population.

Mayor Bob Walkup has said he supports either incorporation or annexation for the area because each would bring more state-shared revenue into the region that could be used for urban planning and transportation needs. He couldn’t be reached for comment last night.

But Tucson officials stress they aren’t about to rush into an annexation drive.

“I know that we want to talk to people and let things cool off a little bit before we make any decisions about what we want to do,” said Andrew Greenhill, Walkup’s chief of staff.

For Tucson to annex any part of Casas Adobes, both the majority of property owners and the owners of more than 50 percent of the area’s assessed property value would have to consent.

So, enticing Casas Adobes residents to annex may be easier said than done.

Incorporation opponents feared the new government created by forming Casas Adobes would result in more taxes and fees.

“I bought my house here 10 years ago because I wanted to live in the county,” said incorporation opponent Peter Tescione, a former Casas Adobes Town Council member.

“I don’t want to be part of Marana. I don’t want to be part of Oro Valley. I don’t want to be part of Tucson,” he said. “All these other communities around us . . . have got a plethora of taxes.”

However, Phil Richardson, chairman of Residents Against Taxes Adobes and an ally of Tescione’s, said of all the options now available to Casas Adobes residents, annexation by Tucson is the best.

Richardson, a retired local radio newscaster, said the county doesn’t have the money or the will to adequately fix the area’s traffic-clogged streets.

He contended that becoming part of Tucson is the best option because Marana doesn’t have the government infrastructure to handle another 60,000 residents, and Oro Valley has already failed in an effort to annex part of the area.

Casas Adobes’ size and lucrative commercial centers make the area attractive to would-be suitors, Richardson said.

“We are the bride,” he said. “We’re waiting for the bridegroom to make an offer.”

Casas Adobes fight may not be over


Citizen Staff Writer

While the drive to incorporate the town of Casas Adobes has been defeated at the polls, it appears the vote won’t put an end to a lawsuit over the town’s right to incorporate.

Phoenix attorney David Abney said he plans to continue petitioning the state Supreme Court for a review of his clients’ case, which challenges a state law giving nearby cities and towns the right to block incorporation efforts.

Abney said that issue remains unresolved despite yesterday’s vote.

However, the chances of overturning the law are slim, he acknowledged.

Casas Adobes residents Lowell Lowe and Jane Madden, both former members of the Casas Adobes Incorporation Committee, have retained Abney, who is working for them free.

City of Tucson and Casas Adobes officials have been fighting over the legality of the town’s incorporation since 1997, when a new state law overturned a previous one that gave Pima County cities the right to halt incorporations within six miles of their borders.

Casas Adobes residents approved incorporation in an election the same year.

A series of lawsuits and appeals overturned the 1997 law on constitutional grounds. The legal wrangling culminated in a Superior Court ruling last June that annulled the 1997 incorporation.

Lowe and Madden appealed that decision, but the state Court of Appeals in February – noting that Tucson, Marana and Oro Valley officials had given permission for yesterday’s incorporation election – called the appeal “moot” and dismissed it.

By petitioning the state Supreme Court, Abney is trying to circumvent that decision.

Although it has support from the surrounding communities, Tucson has been the primary defender of a city’s right to block nearby incorporations.

Dennis McLaughlin, the principal assistant city attorney, has represented the city in its four-year legal battle.

“In a logical world, once the election is decided either way, they should drop this appeal because they’re either going to be a town or the people will have rejected it,” McLaughlin said yesterday, before the polls had closed in Casas Adobes.

McLaughlin wouldn’t speculate on whether the Supreme Court will accept the case but said that if he is forced to defend the city’s position, he would argue that the second incorporation election means “that this thing really is over.”

MAP: Casas Adobes

Source: Tucson Citizen


Don Burtchin, chairman of the Casas Adobes Incorporation Committee, believes the defeat of his group’s incorporation effort will result in Tucson, Marana and Oro Valley vying to annex the area.

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