Encanterra residents mixed on potential annexation into Queen Creek

Residents were split on their opinions about a possible annexation of a portion of San Tan Valley into Queen Creek, which would include the Encanterra Trilogy Resort Community.

Community members opined on the matter during a Wednesday, Dec. 5 public hearing in the Queen Creek Community Chambers, 20727 E. Civic Parkway. The Town Council did not take a final vote on the matter.

A map of the proposed area to be annexed into Queen Creek. (Photo courtesy of the Town of Queen Creek)

The proposed annexation would include about 755 acres made up of parcels to the south and east of the Gantzel and Combs roads intersection. Some Encanterra residents showed interest in annexation in early 2018.

In March 2018, town representatives met with Encanterra residents to answer questions regarding town services.

Shea Homes, the developer of the Encanterra community, conducted a survey where 80 percent of respondents preferred annexation to Queen Creek over incorporation into the proposed new municipality of San Tan Valley.

Leah Gumm — a member of the Member Led Annexation Team and a two-year resident of Encanterra — filed an application with the town on June 5. The group claimed it had conducted an email survey and received 600 responses of which, 62 percent were in favor.

“After moving to Encanterra, there was only one uncertainty left in my mind and that was the community’s future. I had always hoped that joining Queen Creek would be a possibility some day and now it’s here,” Ms. Gumm said during the public hearing.

“When I first heard that the future of our beautiful community was essentially undetermined and I had a voice in positively impacting that decision, I wanted to educate myself on all the options. After researching and listening to all opinions, it was a clear and easy direction for what I believed was Encanterra’s best path: joining the Town of Queen Creek.”

In early July, there was another meeting — which had about 400 residents attending, according to town staff — to discuss town services.

Several weeks ago, the applicant conducted another survey with Encanterra property owners, resulting in 600 responses. Of those responses, 61 percent were in favor, 30 percent were opposed and 9 percent were undecided.

The town has stated it will benefit from the annexation because it will receive state shared revenues for the Encanterra population, sales tax generated from clubhouse sales and property taxes from homeowners, which will assist in paying for a portion of the costs of providing public safety services.

In return, the town claims it will provide “high quality service” from its fire and medical department as well as from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office District 6.

The town also claims it will provide quality water to homes and groundwater for the community; planning and zoning regulations; and maintenance of arterial roadways surrounding the community.

The town estimates it will receive $17.4 million in one-time revenues from the construction of an estimated 783 new homes within the area. The municipality also estimates $2.3 million in annual ongoing revenues and $400,000 annually at build out from food/beverage sales, golf club dues and utilities.

In perpetual rights for reclaimed water, use of the lakes as recharge facilities or right to transfer the water off-site, the town will pay Shea Homes $8.9 million.

(Independent Newsmedia/Richard H. Dyer)

The voice of the people

During her comments, Ms. Gumm had those in the audience stand to show the council their support for annexation.

“What our group sees as the top reason to join Queen Creek is the certainty,” Ms. Gumm said. “The certainty to have a stronger police, fire and medical services; secure property values; local government representation; and be part of a town with a well-defined General Plan.”

There were, however, numerous people in attendance who did not see the benefit to themselves or the community in joining Queen Creek. Erica Christman, an Encanterra resident, said she and her husband were staunchly against the annexation.

“Quite honestly, we resent this initiative taken by a few fellow residents in our community and by Shea, a homebuilder who has no business interfering in our community’s governance,” she said. “One has to ask why, and for what reason, is this annexation being pushed so hard on our community.”

Ms. Christman further claimed there were no “community-wide, validated queries or forums” for residents to speak out on the change prior to the application. She believes many in the community would have opposed the application prior to it reaching the town.

She and other residents voiced concern about potential additional taxes and service charges while many stated they didn’t see a benefit to the residents in the proposed area.

“I did not ask for, nor did I choose to be annexed into Queen Creek,” Encanterra resident Helen Schafft said during the hearing. “Why would I want to become a part of Queen Creek when you get all the benefits of our money and I get higher taxes and fees, and fire and law enforcement farther from our gates?”

Gail Barney

Principal Planner Christine Sheehy also pointed out she had received 58 correspondences in favor, 30 in opposition and one undecided.

The town also received numerous correspondence via email and written comment. Of those attached to the council’s packet, many stated their desire to join the town because of a sustainable fire and emergency department while other expressed their desire to be part of town that has “strong leadership.”

After all speakers spoke, Queen Creek Mayor Gail Barney read into the record names of those who didn’t want to speak but wanted to show their support one way or the other. Both sides had numerous names read.

Next steps

On Friday, Dec. 7, a 30-day waiting period ended, allowing Ms. Gumm to start collecting signatures in support of the annexation. If the annexation continues forward, there will be an ordinance presented to council and 30 days after that, the ordinance and petition will be recorded.

Ms. Sheehy said the town follows an annexation process set up through state statutes. She said 51 percent of honors need to sign a petition in favor for the annexation to move forward.

If those signatures are obtained, the town would schedule another public hearing where the council will render its decision on whether to proceed.

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