Tri-city annexations stretch borders, patience

The year just ending was one in which all three of the tri-city communities flexed their boundaries a bit through separate annexation bids.

Over the course of the past year, thousands of acres of undeveloped ranchland and Arizona State Land have been up for grabs among Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley.

And because the annexation efforts overlapped in places, some sparring occurred among local officials to determine just where the boundaries should be.

Prescott officials started their annexation scramble in April, when they announced that the city had filed annexation petitions to bring about 11.5 square miles of private ranchland northeast of Prescott into city limits. Much of the land under consideration belonged to Granite Dells Ranch and the Point of Rocks Ranch, although several smaller landowners also were involved.

In addition, the city was eyeing another 3.75 square miles of State Trust land.

The annexation was the largest that Prescott had undertaken since the late 1980s, when the city annexed The Ranch and Yavapai Hills.

City officials maintained that the annexation was necessary to protect the Prescott Airport from encroaching development.

After Prescott's announcement, however, Prescott Valley officials reacted first with shock, then outrage.

Despite the ongoing good-faith discussions between the city and town on service boundaries, Prescott Valley Town Manager Tony Mortillaro said Prescott's push for filing the annexation without warning forced town officials to question "the ability to continue any regional dialogue because there was no advance communication about this action."

Adding fuel to the fire, Prescott Valley Mayor Rick Killingsworth pointed out that Prescott wanted the town to give up property that was already part of Prescott Valley.

A public hearing worked little in resolving the dispute, although Prescott Valley officials said they shared the city's concerns regarding protection of the Prescott Airport and Glassford Hill.

The Town of Prescott Valley filed annexation petitions also, and that action started the legal process of taking in areas west of the town limits. Included in the petition were documents showing the alleged legal invalidity of Prescott's proposed annexation.

That led the City of Prescott to file a complaint in Yavapai County Superior Court in May, challenging the validity of Prescott Valley's annexation petition. The complaint maintained that Prescott Valley's annexation bid contained land that the city had already filed for.

The matter never made it to the courtroom, however. After some weeks of negotiations, both sides agreed on an annexation settlement that called for the two communities to withdraw their annexation petitions and re-file new ones with the agreed-upon boundaries.

For Prescott Valley, the agreement allowed the town to control development of lands adjacent to its subdivision, namely the Granville development on Glassford Hill Road.

Prescott also agreed to reimburse the town for a share of the local match and right-of-way acquisition costs for a portion of the new Rails-to-Trails trail the town is developing.

At year's end, Prescott officials are continuing their discussions with the ranch owners to come up with development agreements that would work out the details of annexation.

And in the meantime, the State Land Selection Board recently OK'd Prescott's bid to annex about 2,200 acres of State Trust Land in the same area. City officials say the two annexations likely would go to the City Council simultaneously.

In Chino Valley, council members voted in February to begin annexation proceedings for 30 sections of land east of the town. At that time, Chino Valley had only 25 sections of land within its borders, so the annexation more than doubled the landmass of the 8,000-person town.

The annexation covers about 30 square miles, or more than 19,000 acres. It extends seven miles east of existing town boundaries and six miles to the north and south. It borders Coyote Springs near Prescott Valley, and brought several large historic ranches into Chino Valley's town limits.

Those ranches include portions of Granite Dells Ranch, Deep Well Ranch, Perkins Ranch and Running W Ranch. The only developed area in the annexation effort was Chino Meadows Unit 5.

The annexation of private property in the area was finalized in October, and the town still is working out the details of annexing six sections of state land within the eastside annexation map.

In May 2000, Chino Valley and the City of Prescott signed an intergovernmental agreement identifying a dividing line for annexation proceedings between the two communities. Chino Valley's annexation brought areas just north of the agreed-upon boundary into Chino Valley's town limits.

In 2000, the town annexed 3,000 acres north of Road 5 North in Chino Valley and approved plans for a master planned community that could double the town's population and add up to 4,000 homes in the Del Rio Springs area. Developers of the Bond Ranch at Del Rio Springs hope to close on the property in February 2002 and begin construction soon afterwards.